How to travel by train – tips and ideas for your next holiday

 

I’m so jealous at everyone turning 18-year old this year, they get free Interrail tickets this summer! I am trying to go back to my good habits of travelling by train in Europe instead of flying, and I thought I would share some tips with you guys. Summer holidays are coming up and if you are planning a trip anywhere in Europe, why not do it by train? In this post I’ll go through costs, how to plan your route and how much in advance you should book.

Ideally, I would take the train much more. I have high ideals, but I am in no way a “perfect eco citizen”. Because of my flying, my carbon footprint is three times the sustainable level. Many people are true eco-heroes without thinking about it even! They live in a small flat, they buy the food that’s about to go off with the 60% tags and they travel by public transport. Often, the people who spend least money are the one’s we should look up too. Those guys are your real heroes, I’m just a spoiled millennial who want to raise awareness among other spoiled millennials. Enough about that, now to train travel!

Why chose train?

If you want to see many destinations in Europe, train is the obvious choice. If you are going to just one destination, most people I know see flying as the obvious choice but train can offer the benefit of giving you a “bonus destination” on the way. Seeing things on the way and more flexibility are two great aspects about train travelling. Taking the night train is the best. For every night you spend on the train, you gain a day for sightseeing and avoid the cost of a hotel.

The other obvious benefit is that most train companies run on electricity that is largely produced from renewable resources. That means that taking the train can on many routes have zero carbon emissions! A typical flight trip in Europe has at least 500kg of carbon emissions. Just one flight roundtrip is almost 10% of the average EU citizens annual emissions, so taking the train can give you some serious saves. Also, taking the train is a real adventure! You meet people, you explore and you learn to enjoy the little things along the way. Most trains are also very comfortable and if you have the chance to travel by night train, you won’t even notice you spent time travelling.

Where to start planning?

The Interrail.eu website shows the best train connections within Europe. I can put in Helsinki to London and it suggests me the quickest route! I keep using that distance as an example because I have made that journey three times but I have also travelled by rail from London to Milan, from Amsterdam to Madrid and obviously the Eurostar routes from London to Paris and Brussells. Interrail.eu also have an app called the Rail Planner that I recommend downloading when you start planning your app. Click here to get to the planner. Plan your journey well in advance if you want to travel during popular times and you have to be on certain trains, the most popular routes on the fastest trains can sell out. You can be more relaxed about planning if have all the time in the world during your travels and you don’t mind having a journey by local trains with several small stop overs and occasionally wait even a day extra to catch a cheaper train the next day.

I would suggest planning your route and your timetable before purchasing an Interrail pass, as for some journeys single tickets can be cheaper. To save money,  I really recommend booking the high speed rails such as the Eurostar from London or the Thalys trains in France, Germany, Spain and the Benelux countries well in advance. The prices for these trains tend to go up if you leave booking too late. The Eurostar from London is not included in the Interrail pass but the Interrail pass entitles you to a small discount on your Eurostar ticket price.

When you plan your trip I suggest putting in your starting point and final destination first, just to see which stopover places the app suggests. You want to spend more time than the shortest stopover time in some of these places, so do not religiously follow this first suggested timetable. For example on the journey from Milan to London I decided to have a 13 hours stop over to enjoy a day in Paris, instead of just a 1h stopover where I would have to rush. Search for the timetables of the two journeys separately: Milan-Paris and then Paris-London.

About the cost – Interrail pass or individual train tickets?

An Interrail pass is ideal if your goal is to see as many places as possible and you don’t mind moving from one place to another. They sell both International and one-country passes. I have myself not done a proper Interrail trip with many stops over a month or so, but read a bit further and you’ll see the tips from two of my friends who have done it.

If you are under 27 years old, the price of the Interrail pass is about 25% cheaper. The prices for the International youth passes range from 208€ (£192) to 510€ (£470) depending on if you travel for the minimum of 5 days or up to a whole month. On top of this, many trains charge a seat reservation fee to be allowed travel on that train. Comparing rail travel to flying is very difficult because you can see so much more when you travel by train.

Tips for shorter train journeys

When you are travelling less than 5 days during a period of two weeks, which is the smallest international Interrail pass, it might actually become cheaper to book individual train journeys. Sometimes it can be worth paying the little extra with the Interrail pass even if you are travelling a shorter time because it allows for flexibility. The benefit of the Interrail pass is if you miss a train connection, you can just take the next train instead. On some distances, you might also want to take bus or boat instead of train. For example, all my journeys out of Helsinki include a ferry ride. If you travel by the fastest Intercity trains, for example from Paris to Barcelona, you might as well not have an Interrail pass because the mandatory seat reservation fees for these trains can be quite high. I bought most of my individual train tickets from Go Euro because they sell both bus and train tickets from many countries on just one site.

My experience of shorter one-way train journeys in Europe. 1-4 are with individual tickets, nr 5 is with an Interrail pass:

  1. Helsinki to London (via Stockholm, Berlin, Amsterdam and Brussels): 235 euro (£210)
  2. London to Amsterdam (via Brussels): 58 euro (£51)
  3. Amsterdam to Madrid (via Paris): 205 euro (£180)
  4. Milan to London (via Paris): 195 euro (£175)
  5. Helsinki to London in 2016 (via Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg and Brussels) 295 euro (£265). This sum includes the following costs: Interrail ticket 180 euro, ferry to Stockholm from Turku 55 euro and Eurostar ticket 60€. 

Tips for longer Interrailing

My friends who have done some longer Inter railing share their experience here.


Emil: No train no gain

Emil train 2Back in 2013 I went on my first inter rail adventure. I took a three week-ticket and decided to travel as much as I could in three weeks. I remember counting that we travelled through at least 18 countries. We had a quite quick pace, because I was eager to see as much as possible. For me the train rides themselves are the main part of the journey. Different landscapes and countries passing by in the window are the beauties you miss when you take that oil-drinking-Dracula, called an airplane.

I good tip for traveling longer distances with train is to take the local trains. Take your time and skip the superfastultrafancygodzillahyperloop-trains that travel approx. 900 km/h. Use the local trains instead. Because that’s where you find the locals. You’ll see the smiling school kids, the praying nuns, the stressed-out office worker and also the weird people inter railing with a shitty guitar on their backs. Note that I might be that guy.


Sofia: Bring a padlock and a copy of your passport!

SoffiatrainSome years ago I went inter railing for 4 weeks in Europe. It was in August, which is the most busy month in Europe with a lot of tourists. Because of this, I would advise anyone planning an inter rail to go in June or July, since it will be less tourists and also cheaper prices. Plan your route beforehand but account for one extra day or some extra hours at every place you want to visit. Strive for a good balance between planning and being spontaneous. For example, we planned to stay three days in Verona, Italy, but after one day we spontaneously decided to go to Venice since we had seen everything Verona had to offer in one day.

Try to book hostels in those cities you want to spend more time in. Also, if you are travelling in August, book ahead! Otherwise you might find yourself in a difficult situation when arriving in your destination. Me and my friends were forced to spend the night on a beach since the all the cheap hostels were booked and we did not feel like paying for a hotel.

Last tip: look after your stuff and be super careful! Take a copy of your passport and bring a padlock with you.

Felicia’s comment: It sounds like Sofia may or may not have somehow lost her passport haha 😉


How much time to allow for a distance?

If the route you are taking requires changing trains, allowing for some extra time is really the key to enjoyable rail travel. The Interrail planner says it will take me 42 hours to get from Helsinki to London. I have made the journey in that time once, and it was quite stressful. I had 6 stop overs which were all less than 3 hours long, and the worst stop over was in Hamburg at 3.30 am. I do not recommend for anyone to change trains at 3.30 am and I will never do it again. Unless there is a proper night train that allows you to sleep your 8 hours, I really recommend staying at a cheap hostel and just adding 10 hours to your journey time. Believe me, you will be much happier about your journey iof you sleep properly!

In the summertime (May to September) there is a night train from Stockholm to Berlin with a shorter stop in Malmö. Check it out at Snälltåget.se. In the wintertime when travelling between Helsinki and London there is no night train, so I have to sleep one night at a hostel in Copenhagen to avoid travelling during the night.

Basic tip: allow at least one more day than what the Interrail Planner says is the shortest possible time to travel. The app says it takes 51 hours to go from Helsinki to Madrid but you definitely do not want to make the journey in that time. You can get to Madrid in just two days but it might be a bit stressful. The journey includes stop overs in Copenhagen, Paris and Barcelona and you definitely want to explore at least one of them on the way. Maybe you want to explore them just for a few hours but still, you don’t want to follow the inconvenient suggestions of stop over times that the Railplanner app gives you. Why on earth would you want to be in Lyon between 23:56 and 07:06 for example? You might as well take the later morning train from Lyon to your next destination and enjoy a cute brunch!

I travelled from Arezzo in Italy via Milan and Paris to London in just 24 hours. That was quite good because it included a 40 minute stop over in Milan (time for buying snacks), a night train to Paris, a whole day of museums in Paris and a 2 hour train back to London late in the evening. If you have convenient connections you can make even longer distances in only 24 hours. Short distances like London to Amsterdam take only 4,5 hours. How much time to allow depends on both the distance and the connections, the fewer connections you have, the quicker your journey will be and the less risk there is of missing a connecting train.

The new normal

Recently more and more people in Europe are starting to choose the train over flying. In fact, there are many discussions on political level that some of the night trains that were shut down year’s ago would be brought back. When on holiday, more people are starting to realise that they can enjoy the journey as much as the destination. As for business trips, quick routes like the Eurostar also helps people choose trains over flying. If you are planning your next journey in Europe but you feel unsure about how to join the train-trend, please comment below and ask any question, I will always reply!

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Carbon neutral trip to Australia?

Greetings from Melbourne, Australia!

I have been travelling by Greyhound bus across all of the East Coast, from Port Douglas to Melbourne over the past 3 weeks. 3500 kilometers on a bus in total! It was really cool to see so much of the country. Ancient rainforest, white beaches and yesterday I even saw koalas! I travelled here alone but I am visiting friends. My friend Bridget travelled with me in Queensland and came to the great barrier reef with me, now I’m staying at her place in Melbourne. In Sydney I stayed with my other friend Maggie who showed me around there. Cool cities both of them! This trip has been truly amazing and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to experience this! If you read through all my notes about carbon calculations you will get to my lovely travel photos at the end. They include pictures of a koala if you were not motivated to begin with 😉

Now to the less fun part. I got here from Europe the worst possible way: by flying. I actually looked at taking a freighter cruise but they are damn expensive and with 30 days at sea, I simply would not have made the trip.

The emissions from my flights are absolutely crazy. I chose to pay about 150€ more for my flights to get as few stop overs as possible and the straightest possible route. Stop overs make flights even worse, but it is impossible to get to Australia from Europe without one stop over. I am feeling a bit guilty when I am doing these calculations. I have now used three different calculators to get a picture of how much this trip really was in emissions. I am going to compensate my flights, at not one but three different sites, because I really think the idea of compensating for flights emissions is quite problematic. I think prices of CO2 are too low, so therefore I think it is right for me to compensate threefold. Even if CO2 compensation has its problems I do recommend it for anyone who travels by flight! I’m more ambitious than most people when it comes to reducing my carbon footprint and I understand if you cannot afford compensating three times, do it once and it will be better than most people!

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Most sites I used to calculate, said that this amount of international travel emits approximately 4,6 tonnes of CO2, since I travelled about 32000 km. For comparison, ALL my other transport gets to only 2,6 tonnes of CO2 per year. That includes 8 flights within Europe, two long train journeys within Europe, 3 long bus journeys and occasional use of car. The flights within Europe account for 90% of that sum, I better start travelling Helsinki-London by train again. Driving a car to work daily would be about 1-3 tonnes of CO2. My flights here equal 9 years of my occasional driving a car but if you drive a lot in a big car, your car can emit almost 5 tonnes CO2 per year. The same as my Australia trip! The electricity, heating and stuff I buy to keep my flat in shape emits only 2,2 tonnes of CO2 in a year! I could stop using electricity at home completely, live in the forest and still not be able to compensate for this flight in my lifestyle. Being vegetarian and eating mostly vegan saves me 1 tonne of CO2 per year and my food footprint goes from 1,7 tonnes CO2 to 0,7 tonnes CO2. Being vegan could technically afford me an international holiday every 3 years or so, if I choose to go to for example Asia which is a bit closer than Australia. My consumption CO2 is quite low compared to the average western person. I save about 2 tonnes of CO2 per year with buying as little as possible, preferring secondhand, renting, borrowing and repairing. Recycling gets my CO2 footprint down by approximately 0,3 tonnes of CO2. 16 years of recycling can compensate for one holiday to Australia. Thank god I have been recycling all my life!

To sum up, this trip is not great for the environment and my carbon footprint, but I will try to compensate it both in my daily life and by buying carbon offsets. The average EU carbon footprint per year is 7,5 tonnes. On average over the past 5 years, I am slightly above that with approx 9 tonnes of CO2 per year because I travel too much but I am well below the Finnish average of 11 to 13 tonnes or the UK carbon footprint of 10 tonnes per person.  The Aussies have an insane footprint of almost 20 tonnes of carbon per year!

I am also happy to notice through, that with all my lifestyle choices I actually end up earning my flights in CO2 savings. By “earning” I mean that I emit less carbon than the average Brit or Finn despite my travels. That feels good, because I love travelling and this holiday has made me so happy!

Site 1: climatecare.org

This site sells emission compensation very cheaply. It calculated that I have emitted 4.66 tonnes of CO2 for travelling back and forth from London to Cairns via Singapore, and from Melbourne to London via Colombo, Sri Lanka. This compensation cost me 43€ in total. This is nothing, if I compare that my flights were around 800 euro. And if I calculate what I have spent during my holiday, I have even less reason to come with any excuses about not affording to carbon offset.

Recent research shows that offsetting through our Gold Standard safe water projects will not only reduce CO2 emissions. For every tonne of CO2 offset, you will also deliver $117 of health impacts and $1 of employment. Clean cooking projects tell a similar story with $55 of health impacts, $93 of livelihood impacts and $3 of employment delivered for every tonne of CO2 offset.

climatecare.org

Site 2: co2esto.com

A Finnish company that buys EU emission rights and sells them to individual. According to them, an average, roundtrip international flight between two continents emits 1,5 ton CO2. Since my flights to Australia consist of flying over two continents, from Europe to Asia to Australia, I simply doubled this sum. According to them my trip to Australia would have emitted only approximately 3 tonnes of CO2. Since this is just an approximation, it makes sense that the estimation is somewhat lower than for the other two calculators. This cost me in total 40€. Again, quite affordable. If you can afford to travel internationally, surely you can afford to offset.

Site 3: carbonfootprint.com

According to carbonfootprint.com my journey emitted 4,8 tonnes of CO2. This number is slightly higher than the first calculator, because they include something called radiative forcing. “Carbon emissions from planes at high altitude have an increased effect on global warming. Tick the box if you would like to multiply aviation emissions by DEFRA’s recommended Radiative Forcing factor of 1.891.”  

Carbonfootprint.com gives me different options to offset my flights, ranging from UK tree planting for £64 (approx 75€) to a “global portfolio” for only £26 (approx. 30€). I chose to compensate by buying a “Certified Emissions Reduction” for £36, which is about 42€.

Your funding supports Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects that have generated Certified Emission Reductions (CERs). CDM was defined by the Kyoto Protocol to promote clean development in developing countries. This offsetting portfolio supports sustainable development through a range of projects such as Wind Energy, Small Hydro Power, Efficient Cookstoves and Biomass.

So, now I am about 120€ poorer but at least I feel less bad about my flights. Also, this is less than 10% of my total travel budget so really not that much. What do you guys think, can I claim my Australia holiday is carbon neutral now? Time for pictures!

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Sources:

  1. I used the three sites mentioned above and also a carbon calculator by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). The average emissions for consumption, driving a car and recycling are from SYKE.
  2. Statistics about European carbon footprints: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Greenhouse_gas_emission_statistics_-_carbon_footprints
  3. Statistics about European carbon footprints: https://www.carboncalculator.co.uk/averages.php
  4. About Finnish carbon footprints: http://www.helsinkitimes.fi/finland/finland-news/domestic/14913-finns-have-one-of-the-biggest-carbon-footprints-in-eu.html
  5. Australian carbon footprint: http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/verve/_resources/TCI_Australias_Emissions_Factsheet_Final-LR.pdf6. Carbon emissions per country: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/datablog/2009/sep/02/carbon-emissions-per-person-capita

 

Christmas trees – plastic or real?

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Last week I bought a little Christmas tree and of course did some research before. What Christmas tree is the most eco-friendly? I went for a little potted, living tree and it is definitely the best option according to my research. If you live in Finland or somewhere else in Scandinavia – the real tree wins for sure, even if it is chopped down. A study from Canada showed that you need to use the same plastic Christmas tree for at least 20 years before it’s environmental impact becomes smaller than an annual real tree. However, if you live somewhere where spruces don’t grow as abundantly as in Finland, a plastic tree might be slightly better. Five years of plastic-tree use beats real Christmas trees in places like London, where I currently live. The potted tree is still better.

I refuse to buy a plastic tree through. PVC plastic, which these trees are made of, is essentially the worst type of plastic. It’s not widely recycled at all and it contains chemicals with negative health impacts. Plastic Christmas trees shred “needles” and these tiny plastic pieces can end up in nature where they cause much harm. For example, our tap water already contains micro-plastics which has negative long-term health implications. Most plastic trees are also shipped from China so actually they don’t come from very near either.

So if you live somewhere really far from where Christmas trees grow, you intend to use your plastic tree for at least 10 years and your first and foremost concern is climate change – then maybe consider the plastic option. I personally went for a tiny, potted Christmas tree. A potted tree can be kept alive and hopefully I can use the same tree again next year! We will put it in the garden and keep watering it over the summer. If we are lucky, it might stay alive for one or two seasons more but to be honest: after that it will grow too big to like living in a little pot anymore. Getting a new Christmas tree only every second year means a 50% lower carbon footprint which is not bad.

Have a lovely Christmas and New Year all, I’ll be back writing more after the holidays!

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Fantastic when people enable change

The average EU citizen produces 161 kilograms of packaging waste per year. 161 kilograms is an insane amount of waste! Globally we produce 420 million tons of packaging waste. This is only packaging. 420 million tons that is literally wasted. Many products come in excess packaging. The typical example is bananas, they have a great peel and really don’t need any plastic packaging to keep fresh!

Packaging waste mainly includes paper and board (40%), glass (20%), plastics (19%), wood (15%), and metal (6%). That means lot’s of trees unnecessarily chopped down!

Luckily there are people who actively try to turn around the trend of increasing packaging waste. Ingrid Caldironi has recently opened London’s first package free shop! The Bulk Market in Dalston is a small but well stocked store. I think it’s fantastic and the world needs more people who do concrete actions like opening a zero waste store to tackle large-scale problems. I would not be able to even try to live zero waste if it weren’t for the people who decide to sell packaging free products.

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I had the chance to visit the store last week. For 5 minutes only because had to visit in such a rush after work and before the store closed but the service and the products were excellent. I had with me a washed glass jar that used to contain pickled cucumbers, my favourite reusable bag from the Finnish Red Cross webshop, and two tupper ware boxes to fill up with deliciousness at the Bulk Market. I ended up buying soy sauce, popcorn, pasta and plastic free toilet paper. I wanted to buy a reusable straw but I want a long one and they had run out of them and had only short ones at the moment. Buying popcorn in my own bag was pretty awesome, I’m back on track with my snacking I can tell you 😉

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Sources:
2015, Qingbin Song, Jinhui Li and Xianlai Zeng: Minimizing the increasing solid waste through zero waste strategy
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095965261400849X#sec2.4

2017, Emma Henderson/The Independent: Inside London’s first plastic free shop
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/bulk-makert-recycling-zero-waste-first-plastic-free-market-london-hackney-a7924781.html

 

No disposable plastic this week

This week I try to live completely zero waste. It just feels absurd when I walk into any normal store or supermarket. Whenever I visit a beach I find trash everywhere. Whenever I visit a supermarket there is plastic every where, shelf up and down. Whenever I read the news I hear more and more about kilometers after kilometers of plastic waste. Some researchers even think plastic waste is a greater ecological catastrophe than climate change! Did you know that 70% of European tap water is contaminated with micro plastic? In the US this rate is over 90%! Even the sampled bottled water contained plastic.

Knowing this, it is just absolutely absurd that humanity keeps producing more and more plastic. I usually avoid plastic and packaging as best I can but doing it 100% takes a lot of energy. This week I try harder than normally and I try to get as close to 100% as I can!I got inspired when I saw a Facebook event called “Muoviton Marraskuu”, plastic free November in Finnish. I’ll see how long into November I last but I’ll try my best! I have not yet made my own toothpaste though…

So my first totally zero waste day was yesterday. Many people trying out zero waste find food shopping to be the hardest part. You can avoid buying many things but you have to eat. So I am going to share my Zero waste dinner from last night with you! For any readers living in London, there are a few good zero-waste places to shop: for East London, head to the Bulkmarket in Dalston. This is Londons first absolutely zero-waste shop! For Elephant & Castle, head to the FareShares co-op. Borough market at London Bridge is also great. I am lucky to have a store called Greensmith’s near Waterloo station which is right on my way home from work! They sell most of their vegetables without packaging. I always carry my own reusable bags with me (it just lives in my backpack) so it is really easy to do even spontaneous food shopping on my way home, without causing any waste! I’ll post the recipe for this zero-waste meal later this week.

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Plastic Pollution Garbage Dump Bottles Floating

 

I did it again! Moved from Helsinki to London by train

I’m back in London again for at least 6 months to do an internship! Since I had holiday before my work here started, I had the time to take the train from Helsinki to London again. Scroll down for pictures!

I spent some time in Malmö, a full day in Berlin and a day and a night at my friends place in Amsterdam! Everything went so smooth, the changeover from ferry to train in Stockholm was easy taking less than an hour. My afternoon in Malmö was great and I visited some beautiful gardens. I enjoyed the night train between Malmö and Berlin, sharing my cabin with some really nice people. Seeing a bit more of Berlin was great since I have been there only briefly once before. And seeing my friend in Amsterdam was obviously awesome!

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Pros of taking the train versus flying

  • I got to see awesome cities on the way
  • I had the chance to visit my friend in Amsterdam for a day
  • It is more of an adventure, you meet more new people
  • My carbon footprint from travelling was between 30-60 % lower according to my calculations (one estimate is by this calculator).
Cons of train vs flying
  • Hard to fit in time if you are not on holiday
  • Booking via multiple websites instead of just one
  • Can be more expensive, depending on route

 

 

 

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I saved 10000 liters of water by upcycling old bedsheets

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We talk about reusing and recycling clothes all the time, but bedsheets use a lot of fabric too! I needed a new duvet cover, and I realised how much fabric (a.k.a. natural resources) that actually takes to make. I couldn’t find any secondhand duvet covers that would fit a double sized duvet. Selling your old sheets doesn’t seem to be a thing! Instead, I went to my parents and asked them for some old sheets they do not use anymore. Believe me, people tend to have stuff accumulating over the years at a crazy rate so they had quite a few odd ones to spare! No double sized ones were to be found so I took two single sized ones and made a new cover out of them. Both of them were at least 20 years old, but still of very good quality.

Two old sheets, scissors, a few needles, thread and my grandmothers sewing machine. Voila, it took about 3 hours in total. A new double sized duvet cover would have cost at least 50 euro. This cost me absolutely nothing and I love how it ended up looking! About 2000 liters of water are used for producing a cotton t-shirt, so for producing a duvet cover made from cotton, it would take approximately 10000 liters of fresh water. I really managed to save a lot of natural resources by reusing the textiles for a new duvet cover!

The double sized duvet I got was unfortunately brand new and I don’t really know its environmental footprint.  But I really like my new duvet so I guess it’s worth the environmental price. I did check online for a secondhand big duvet but when I could not find one I bought a new one. A lot of people would find the thought of a secondhand duvet a bit disgusting. I would not mind using a secondhand one, I would just have it properly washed at the dry-cleaner. When I lived in England, I had a secondhand duvet. It turned out to be quite difficult to sell when I moved away! Secondhand duvets are just fine if they’re only a couple of years old, I wish more people realised that used stuff isn’t un-fresh at all.

I gave my old duvet to a beggar, who said her child was freezing and she wanted money to buy one. I did not do it because I’m a particularly good person, I merely thought that this would be a good excuse to buy a new duvet since I wanted a big two-person duvet instead. However, I do hope that she got some use of the duvet. Since I sincerely cared about her family’s wellbeing, and not only about getting rid of my duvet, I did buy her some groceries as well.

I am going to sound harsh here but it’s the truth: Don’t ever think that you are doing the world a favour when you donate bad quality clothes to secondhand shops. Working for a secondhand fashion company (secco.fi), I have become even more aware of how much clothes of really bad quality people have bought. It is really, really difficult to recycle a H&M t-shirt with a hole in it. With good quality fabrics, you can reuse it as a textile and sew a new piece of clothing out of it. Please, dear readers, start checking for the quality of all the textiles you buy. I am writing all this to remind you, that even though recycling projects like this one with my bedsheets, really DO save a lot of natural resources: the only reason I could do it in the first place was because I had quality sheets to work with. It would have been really difficult to sew something from a bad quality fabric.

The environmental hypocrites

Hypocrisy is the gap between your aspirations and your actions. Greens have high aspirations – they want to live more ethically – and they will always fall short. But the alternative to hypocrisy isn’t moral purity (no one manages that), but cynicism. Give me hypocrisy any day.” – George Monbiot

All environmentalists that I know are hypocrites, myself included. Some more, some less. I’m sure there are people who follow their ethics to 100%, I just don’t know anyone who does that when it comes to environmentalism except one remarkable green politician in Finland called Leo Stranius. At least he says he’s 100% vegan, never flies and cycles everywhere. Goals.  I have just arrived in Dubai, by plane. We environmentalists know we are hypocrites every time we make an ‘non-environmetal’ choice. And if we didn’t know that we’re hypocrites already, there will be hundreds of people in line informing us about what awful hypocrites we are.

Like the guy with a 400 gram steak in front of him, telling me how unethical I am for tasting a tiny bite of my friends dish that contained meat. Or the anonymous commentator who thinks this zero-waste blogger is wrong to promote environmentally friendly sunscreens when in fact, flying is the worst part of her trip. Or all the millions of people who say Leonardo di Caprio isn’t an environmentalist because he flew in a private aircraft twice in a year.

I made an extremely hypocritical choice. I went on holiday to Dubai and Abu Dhabi with my family even though I think airplane traveling is not good. Flying by plane is something I should not do. I took the train to London because I’m really am trying to quit flying but it’s extremely tempting to do it. 7 hours direct flights for a very affordable price to see white beaches and another culture. It’s easy to make quite irrelevant justifications for myself like “but at least the flight is shorter than to Thailand, less fuel is required, no stop overs means less fuel for takeoffs too…”.  But the truth is I’m going to a state that’s criticised for using slave labour, that has a very high oil consumption, a very high water consumption and promotes very much commercialism. I wanted to go out of curiosity, to see what it’s like. Dubai is very popular, and seeing many people going here made me want to go too. If I stay more true to my values than I did this time, perhaps I’ll never go again. I’m sorry if I let someone down by making this choice, I’ll try not to do it too often anymore.

The criticism does have grounds, but by calling environmentalists hypocrites you put the focus on the wrong thing. Saying “airplanes are bad for the environment” and taking an airplane OR saying “I never ever think about the environmental impact of planes” and also taking the airplane has the exact same environmental impact.The individual environmental hypocrite is in no way worse for the environment than the ignorant person. By saying “airplanes are bad” the environmentalist is at least more likely to start looking for alternatives. I’m less likely to go to Dubai or Thailand every year. I think companies who put millions of dollars on Greenwashing-marketing are the right subjects of being called hypocrites. They do it on purpose, to make money. I make hypocritical choices because of weak moments of temptation, that partly is a result of that greenwashing marketing. Like Norwegian air, which I’m flying to Dubai, saying they have the newest, least polluting fleet in the world. It´s still at least 3x more polluting than train but they don’t mention that in their marketing.

Dubai is a catastrophe environmentally. I didn’t know how much it is so, until I came here. I’m not going to regret coming here and I’m sure I’ll enjoy my time, but really this isn’t the best travel destination. It is still a massive construction site and the main thing to do is shopping. We’ll drive (yes driving is bad too) to the old town of Al Ain tomorrow because Dubai is so silly. The stupid thing is, after we booked this trip I started hearing from friends they didn’t enjoy Dubai too much either, but they didn’t say that on social media when they posted nice pictures. Please dear reader of this blog, be smarter than me: don’t come here. Don’t book a flight to Dubai, even if they are cheap.

Environmentalist are trying to change society. But sometimes we just want to wholly be part of our society. And our western societies include food wrapped in plastic or occasional very polluting airplane rides. My friends and family go for holidays, it look’s lovely, is it so hard to imagine I might want to go too, even if it’s against my ethical principles? Social media does things worse here. In the long run, we want to get rid of unenvironmental travelling but it’s a change that might take some time. Allow us to fail without judging too hard on our journey towards environmentalism.

So cheer us for the times we do choose vegetarian food, cheer us for choosing the sunscreen that doesn’t harm coral reefs and cheer us when we take the train instead of flying. Shouting “hypocrite!” just creates a negative feeling. If you feel an environmentalist could be even more environmentally friendly, share your tips with them in a friendly way! Tell them in what way life can be nice while doing something even better. Ugly words and blaming those who really try to change isn’t the best way of making society more sustainable.

Trust me, we know better than anyone how polluting airplanes are. We just think that occasionally, it’s nice to travel. Just like a smoker, knowing how unhealthy it is but still enjoying smoking. Some environmentalists have already stopped flying, other’s are still, just like that smoker, thinking that perhaps next year I’ll have more self control… Perhaps next year I won’t be as tempted to fly to a warm location for a quick getaway from the Finnish winter. We are weak sometimes and that is okay. We should love ourselves anyways.

Why don’t you join me and become a hypocritical environmentalist? Allow the changes in your life to take it’s time, maybe some of them never happen. Keep an open mind, accept that you’re a hypocrite and continue learning so that everyday you can become less of a hypocrite. I welcome you in the club of self-declared environmentalists, even if you do the smallest change.

The worlds tallest building is about the only thing I really like in central Dubai. But there are other skyscrapers in the world, go to Taipei, New York or Tokyo instead.

I’m in love with these sustainable luxury handbags

 

 

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I won’t buy a new bag until I can afford these two. The Finnish sustainable high-end brand Lovia has absolutely lovely products. I’ve been dreaming about this bag for a while now, but at the price of roughly 500 euro, I can’t afford it now.

The thing is, I don’t mind waiting. When I say I won’t buy a new bag, I mean brand new bag. I will be perfectly happy with buying secondhand handbags until I can afford something that is sustainably produced and that is so lovely I know I will cherish for years. For me, sustainable consumption of new things means to buy high quality that you use for many years or that has value to sell to someone else.

If you’re going to buy an expensive bag, like a Louis Vuitton bag, why don’t you put that money into buying a luxury bag made from reused leather or leather from wild, free animals? Louis Vuitton leather is often from calves. Not only do I think it’s ethically questionable to slaughter calves at the age of just a few months old just to get a handbag, but the cattle industry is also very damaging for climate change. So next time you have the chance to buy an expensive handbag, look at sustainable brands like Lovia!

Happy sustainable shopping!

xo, Felicia

 

 

Other wonderful green bloggers

I follow a few other great blogs with sustainability theme’s, some of them in English, some in Finnish and Swedish. Some of them are professional, where running the blog is a full time job, others are people that I know who want to document their lifestyle changes at the really beginning of ‘going green’. I want to share all of these with you guy’s so you have something great & green to read even on day’s when I don’t update!

I’ll start with the smaller blogs in Finnish and Swedish, scroll down for the English speaking ones.

My friend Amanda blogs in both Finnish and Swedish at amandapasanen.fi. She is running as a candidate in the local election for the Green party, so she has a lot of very wise thoughts about sustainability while living in a city! Amanda is also an environmental science student, so she knows a lot about this stuff.

A Swedish-language blog from Finland that I really like is Grön i Åbo. That’s focused on zero waste too, but also on environmentalism in general. I really like reading it because the girl writing it is about the same age as me and from the same country so it’s just really easy for me to understand the way she’s thinking, being able to get the products and do the things she recommends.

My friend Otso just started blogging in Finnish at Get Wasteless. I can’t wait to follow his journey towards a life that creates less waste!

Two more known Finnish blogs are also Kemikaalicocktail (The Chemical Cocktail). It’s absolutely great and has a lot of information about the origin of different products! The second one is “trashionista” Outi les Pyy who’s been a great inspiration for me when it comes to ethical and environmentally friendly fashion. 

Then the internationally known English speaking one’s:

Eco Warrior Princess is a blog I have followed for the past 2 years or so. It’s run by Jennifer Nini, an Australian who started blogging about eco fashion in 2010. Nowadays, it’s more a collection of blogs, which is great because you get so many texts about different things! I especially liked this text discussing Green Business labels.

Trash is for tossers by New York city based Lauren Zinger, who creates so little waste that she can fit it all in a little jar! She provides great tips about what disposable products you can easily replace with long lasting ones to create less waste. Lauren studies environmental science and I think her blog shows beautifully how she applies what she learned to real life.

Bea Johnson blogs at Zero Waste Home about the same theme, not producing waste! I admire her and her home for it’s minimalism. It’s cool, modern, practical and environmentally friendly. She does, however, indirectly advocate travelling by plane by describing her lifestyle which is a bit against environmental values. But on the other hand, I use airplanes myself so I shouldn’t be too critical.