Do you understand climate change? Most people don’t

“What would you care about, in case it was proven that climate change isn’t an issue anymore?”, someone asked me yesterday. I do think climate change is an important issue, but I would hardly lose focus in life if climate change was solved. I’d only be very happy! The thing is, this scenario, where climate change is solved is not some kind of utopia. In fact, we have all the tools we need to solve ut! So, why haven’t we?

Click here to read this text in Swedish.

Climate

Climate change is a problem on a too large scale. You don’t see it, you can’t feel it. You don’t even know how much your personal lifestyle contributes to climate change! The way humans try to comprehend climate change is interesting from a psychological point of view. How can we relate and fully understand it?

Even if most of us really don’t, it is still us who amplify it. It is you and me. We are the ones that buy products made by the industry that pollutes, we are the ones who fly for leisure. For about 150 years, we have been heating up the planet. I have studied how humans and the rest of nature affect each other both at university and in my spare time. I have learnt how little I know, how little I really understand. And I have learned how terribly little most people know and understand. There are so many opinions and perceptions about climate change, and what we need to do to solve it, that are not correct. One of them is the idea that we need to “go back to the stone age” in order to fix the issue, or that “climate change is too complicated, so we can’t do anything about it”.

Is it already a problem?

Climate change is in many ways different to many other problems. It can be discussed whether it even is a problem yet, although it is up to all of us to define what we even think is problematic, do decide what we like and what we don’t like. The earth is now on average about 1 degree warmer, since coal started being burned. In Helsinki, there is rarely much snow in the winters anymore, some animal species have moved away and there is a lot of smelly blue-green algae in the Baltic sea every summer. I am bothered by these things, but maybe most people are not? Maybe it’s not a problem yet, to most people.

Climate change is probably the most complex phenomenon in nature that humans have ever caused and been the subject to. The temperature of the earth is affected by probably a million different factors. Carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases is just a small part of it. Sea currents, solar winds and but also human construction! Locally, things such as large areas of black bitumen absorbs heat and warms up the air, the effect of large black areas could be bigger than local. The circulation of water has an effect too, that is known for sure, but it is very hard to predict exactly where it will rain more or less. All in all, it is very difficult to understand exactly what it would mean if the mean temperature of our earth was 3 C degrees warmer. It’s challenging to scientists, it’s very difficult to normal people. I’m writing my bachelor’s thesis on how media has reported on climate change. They have not done a very good job in the past, is my conclusion.

What’s up with the two degree goal?

You probably know that there is a global agreement that heating should be limited to two degrees. Why two? Last week I visited the national museum in Helsinki, and saw an exhibition about Finland during pre-historical times. About 6000 years ago, Finland was actually two degrees warmer than it has been during the 20th century. When the temperature dropped by 2 degrees, the Finnish human population declined about 80 %. The change in nature was too fast to adapt, and many died. Two degrees colder was a catastrophe, but a sudden two degrees warmer has a negative impact too. We will all survive at two degrees warmer, we have modern technology and science. Two degrees is what the temperature is historically known to have been changing. If we let earth heat up by two degrees, there will be effects but we will be okay. The problem is: with the current pace of emissions, we are heading towards 4 or 5 degrees warmer!! No one knows exactly what happens then, but there are many qualified guesses. In the history of modern mammals, no such rapid temperature changes have ever been recorded. Even when the last ice age in Europe ended, 10000 years ago: the mean temperature on earth changed less than this.

There are some sure things about what will happen. The sea levels will rise. This is a problem especially for poor countries. The Netherlands can probably afford to build a massive wall to keep the sea out. We here in the west, know and care too little about poor island-states. Honestly, most of us here don’t really care that much if some village drowns. We probably have a bad attitude towards these villages, an attitude that they will probably have some disaster anyways and will be poor and miserable with or without climate change. If they are going to be miserable anyways, why bother stopping climate change for their sake? This is not a conscious thought for most people, but probably an unconscious one.

Climate change is a different problem because the changes take place over a long time, they are slow but full of risks. There are signs that are not sure, like is the civil war in Syria now partly a result of drought caused by climate change? The climate of the earth is too complicated to say that because you drove your car to work everyday in the past 10 years, you have caused a civil war in Syria. In theory, it might be, that you and a billion other people with their cars, indirectly caused the suffering of Syrians today. We can’t know for sure about this specific thing, but we know for sure there are effects on people as a result of global warming.

Why are some people engaged in solving climate change, when others are not?

People who think climate problem is an issue, often have a few common ways of thinking.

  1. A fear of risk. A feeling that we do not know what we are doing, and that there might be far-reaching domino effects of changes in our atmosphere. That the effect will be so large both socially and environmentally, that civilisation will end up collapsing. We just don’t want to take the risk. Things might end up much worse than a drowned island in the Philippines and rainy winters in Finland.  Global famines when agriculture collapses if temperatures and rain-patterns end up being totally unpredictable. Global flows of migrants, fighting over the only places that are good to live in anymore. Is the fear exaggerated? I don’t know, I don’t think so. We can prevent this from happening, why take the risk?
  2. Solidarity between rich and poor countries. We should not change the planet in a way that means humans need expensive technology to survive and thrive. It should be possible to live a good life on earth in totally natural conditions. So these natural conditions can’t mean people have to afford huge walls to keep the sea out of their homes!
  3. We think there is a value of its own, in nature. We think it’s wrong to change the climate faster than animals and plants can adapt. Even if everyone would be vegan, humans would kill millions of animals by destroying their homes, if we let the climate climate change too much, too fast.

Most people are not engaged in solving the too fast climate change, that is caused by people. One might feel one’s own impact is too small, you can’t see the effect of your efforts and you don’t get any visible benefits from making an effort. Instead, you prioritise solving concrete problems, that are easily visible to you and affect yourself directly.

Solving problems here or now, or solving hypothetical future problems?

Most human problems are here and now. Such as poverty, both relative and absolute. If you can’t afford something you think is necessary for a decent life, it’s a huge problem right now. We don’t talk about the risk of possibly becoming poor in 20 years. Human trafficking and other human rights violations. We talk about those that happen right now. We help victims who have already been trafficked, by providing them with support, education and integration into mainstream society. Famine. We help people who starve right now. Domestic violence, we talk about it because it happens, not because it might be happening in the future. Mental health problems are also not fixed until they are definitely there, we don’t treat depression proactively.

People who are against strict climate policies say we should not focus on problems that do not fully exist yet. That we should not speculate and treat problems just in case. I think that we should treat climate change just in case, because it probably isn’t just in case, it probably will be just in time. I also think we should treat a whole lot of other problems just in case. Society should support people at risk of becoming depressed and at risk of becoming poor. We should educate girls before they are trafficked as sex-slaves. The reason for not doing this is often stated as money, but preventive measures are usually much cheaper. The same applies for climate change, it makes financially sense to fix it now, not later.

There is already a solution

Renewable energy and vegetarian food. By changing our diets and agriculture, as well as our energy production system: we can already decreased greenhouse gas emissions by about 45 %. On a personal level this means to eat less meat and call your energy provider to ask if you can buy wind or solar power from them. Climate change is an extremely complex problem, but there are a few very easy solutions to fix the largest part of it. The rest of the problem will be fixed when science advances and population growth slows down. So, we already have the solutions, we are just too stupid to use them!

We have the needed technology, we just need to be willing to pay that little extra for it. Both as individuals and businesses. If you and every other private consumer spends 100 euro more per month on supporting renewable energy, and 100 euro less on travelling by fossil fuels, we have already solved a large part of the problem. If you cycle to work, instead of taking your car, we have taken another step. If you own a business, you can transition to renewable energy too, it’s constantly getting cheaper. There are positive possibilities for changes on a state level too. The most obvious example is countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE who really can afford to switch to renewables, and their state economy would benefit from stopping to subsidise oil. In many countries, we can have our public transport run on electricity and biogas. We have the technology, we just need to make the investment. Humanity is now richer than ever, so it’s completely realistic to make these investments.

We do not need to go back to the stone age. I’m always a little bit confused when I talk about slowing down climate change and someone starts talking about the stone age. What do modern photovoltanic solar cells have to do with the stone age? We can fix climate change and still take warm showers, use electricity, enough food and an endless supply of Netflix series! Swap your pulled pork for pulled oats, you won’t even miss pork after a while. Your life won’t look that different after we fix climate change. The difference will be that travelling will be more expensive, when we use less fuels for aviation. Clothes and consumer goods manufactured overseas might get more expensive, when energy and shipping gets more expensive. But when a normal, middle-class Finnish person can afford to fly on vacation to Thailand only every five years, instead of every two years, or one can only buy one new pair of shoes every year instead of five, we can’t really compare it to the stone age, that’s ridiculous.

You’ll still be able to afford lots of shoes, but bought secondhand. You can still take the more energy-efficient train to Thailand every year (current route is by the Trans Siberian to Beijing, and via Hong Kong and Vietnam down to Thailand). On top of this, you’ll be able to travel anywhere by virtual reality! The point of stopping climate change isn’t to stop human development. The point is to stop shooting yourself in the foot. Why make climate change worse when we have the means to fix the issue?

The change we should make in our daily lives is so minor,  and still it could do a great deal to solve a difficult issue with huge risks. Why take the risk if we don’t have to?

Climate change can be solved. And don’t worry about me, I’ll have stuff to do after that’s solved. I think I’ll start with problems such as the out of control population growth, littering of the oceans, helping poor people both near and far, supporting development to end hunger crises, support gender equality to have an impact on domestic violence and sex-trafficking, and of course: support my loved ones around me to feel mentally well. And myself, make myself happy too. So lets fix climate change so I can get more time to deal with these other problems too!

 

Would you eat cricket pizza?

I did, and I enjoyed it!

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Last week, I attended an event by the Aalto Sustainable business club called Into the foodture with my friend Sofia.

We were both quite keen on trying the cricket pizza there. I’ll admit, there was that 3 seconds of looking at the crickets being like “am I really going to eat that?” but then you just put it in your mouth and it tasted fine. It’s possible to quite easily overcome a certain “ew” factor by just deciding to give it a go and eat it! It was really nice going together with Sofia since we’re interested in quite the same things, friends who fearlessly try new foods such as crickets are good to have. Crickets on pizza are not very crispy but still a bit crunchy and chunky. Quite a good piece, something to bite in but not too hard. They don’t taste much in themselves and taste even less than for example chicken. All in all, I think crickets go quite well on pizza but I think I prefer them as a crispy, salty snack. I’ve tried that once before, and I can’t wait until you can start buying roasted crickets as a healthy snack at the supermarket.

I’m usually a pesco-vegetarian but for some reason I don’t really see crickets as meat. I eat fish, so I’m definitely not going to feel bad over eating crickets. Crickets are frozen to death which isn’t supposed to hurt them so makes them even more ethical to eat than fish.  Food is the one thing that has the greatest environmental footprint. The poisonous blue green algae in our sea in the summer, the rate of species dying out, deforestation, pollution of drinking water and climate change are all related to our food production. Sustainable food production will also potentially end hunger crises in the world and is socially really important too.

The event was about how the food sector can be innovative and become more sustainable. Four companies were featured at the event. The cricket farm EntoCube who tries to make people realise there can be alternative sources of animal protein! Right now, the law in Finland doesn’t allow for crickets to be advertised as food, which is silly. But I hope that changes soon. Another great company featured was Helsieni who does urban farming of mushrooms. The mushrooms get their nutrients from biowaste, such as coffeegrounds that is produced in cities. It’s just a great way to reduce transportation and get more fresh food! In general, I really like the idea of urban farming. I don’t think we’re ever going to grow all food in urban areas, that’s impossible. But I think it would be possible to grow all fresh ingredients very locally and reduce transportation and use of land. Then more of the countryside can be nature reservats to preserve biodiversity! Also, by promoting people to eat mushrooms instead of meat the overall environmental footprint of the food is reduced.

Two companies trying to decrease food waste and surplus food being wasted was also there: ResQ Club and From Waste to Taste who runs the surplus food restaurant Loop in Helsinki. I’ve used ResQ club but I realised many restaurants didn’t sell surplus food via the app, but just saw it as a possibility to sell more food in general. So, I started doubting whether I’m actually rescuing any food. Also, everything I bought via the app came in plastic packaging so I got tired of having to recycle so much plastic all the time. But they’re developing the app constantly so maybe I’ll start using it again one day! You get good cheap food via it for sure.

So Loop seems like the greatest idea ever: a restaurant with a different menu everyday, depending on what food has been in oversupply in the local supermarkets! Just to make clear, they do not serve foodwaste in the sense that it would be old food: just food that would go bad in the next couple of days and is unlikely to be sold at the supermarket. The menu looks great, I think I’ll go eat at the restaurant and update the blog about it in a fes weeks!

Hugs and kisses! /Felicia

Ps. I’m sorry I haven’t been updating the blog frequently. I’m writing my bachelor’s thesis and that’s so time-consuming. I’ll be back full-time by mid-May, hope to have you still frequently checking in then!

Making less waste: a first step

Many of us feel quite bad about the amount of waste we create. Whenever we see some news about it, that little thought appears in our heads: “oh we should do something about it”. But then we go back to how we used to be, because it’s easier. If you do feel you’d personally like to make a change there are two very easy first steps towards a waste-free life. Plastic bags are one of the worst pollutants of nature so…

  1. Start recycling. This will lead to a situation where you won’t be able to use the typical excuse “I need to take a plastic bag because I have to have something to put my trash in”. Everything recyclable has no need for a plastic bag: the glass, cardboard, paper all  goes well into the big recycling bins by pouring them out of a reusable bag.
  2. Stop taking plastic bags in the store, put the things in a tote bag or in your rucksack, handbag or whatever bag you usually carry around. Especially the tiny plastic bags you get in cosmetics stores are very unnecessary, just put the thing in your pocket!

Most people, that I know, have something like 20 plastic bags at home right now. When I’m visiting someones home, I always notice a huge heap of plastic bags stuffed away somewhere. If you recycle fairly alright, those plastic bags should be enough for your bin for the next 6 months. Personally, I’ve estimated that if I exclude my flatmates waste, I use about 15 plastic bags per year for trash. No one needs to keep collecting bin bags when you actually have a storage of bin bags for the next year at home so stop making that excuse, you do not need more plastic bags.

This little re-usable fruit and vegetable bag is great! My mum bought it for me this Christmas and ever since, I always carry it in my bag wherever I go. It’s washable and is the perfect substitute for the small, very harmful plastic fruit/vegetable bags that are provided in Finnish supermarkets. Buy one for yourself today and commit to stop using plastic bags!

This is the first step towards zero waste, a very easy start. My personal zero-waste start was a bit of an extreme crash course. In 2014 I randomly decided I would live for one whole month without using any disposable plastic. This is only 3 years ago, but the zero-waste  lifestyle wasn’t a “thing” back then. Believe me, people around me probably thought I was so weird when I suddenly refused to eat a cookie just because it had been in a plastic wrap!

Nowadays, I’m not that strict and I do buy some amount of things wrapped in plastic. I never take a plastic bag myself at the store, the one’s I use for waste are usually brought to me by someone visiting me, and leaving them behind. I’m a great admirer  of people like Bea Johnson and Lauren Zinger who has really helped making zero-waste a thing. It will take a long time before I’m as great as the two of them, producing only like one glass jar of waste in a couple of years! But if I could already cut my waste to only 10 bags a year in 2017, I would be really proud! Everyone has different life situations and any sort of change always requires a bit of engagement. Once you have excellent habits, like Zinger, it’s not difficult anymore. Therefore, I suggest you start with this little change that doesn’t require too much effort! Plastic bags kill animals everyday, they break down and end up poisoning seafood that we like to eat. Go for reusable bags, skip the plastic.

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Do you really believe climate change is bad? Hot weather is just nice

“Just look at how sketchy all the organisations are who insist climate change is not real and is not man-made…”, an awesome person said to me. What an excellent point! The people spreading word that man made climate change is made up are rarely established scientific communities like universities. They’re more likely some organisation founded two years ago and sponsored by Shell or BP…If you’re not really interested in learning about all the sciency stuff to convince you about climate change: just take a brief look at these sketchy organisations, that should tell you that man made climate change is probably real. And that unfortunately means that partly, you and I are responsible for it.

I’ve been living with the assumption that man-made climate change “might exist”, until I was about 15, “probably exists” until like 19 and “shiit, we´re quite fucked” since that until now that I’m 22. I mean we are so fucked already, oh my god. But it’s not too late. At least not if people would stop saying hot weather is just nice. Hot weather is awesome as long as it doesn’t kill plants and animals, make storms, rise sea levels, triggers famine, disrupt local weathers so that some places become even colder and kills coral reefs. I want to dive and snorkel, damn it! Hot weather and climate change are two quite different things.

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I love hot weather. A hot climate is quite a different. That’s just a huge risk.

It wasn’t until that “shit, we´re fucked” notion kicked into my head that I decided to try to do something about it. So what did I do? My electricity at home is solar and wind only. I want the energy companies to build more solar and wind, so I increase demand for them. Building more waterpower in Finland would destroy beautiful nature and fish habitats. If I had a house, and not a flat, I’d probably produce my own energy with solar, wind and heat pumpswhich probably is the most efficient way of heating.

Man made climate change has been a known phenomenon since the 1970s but big (evil) fossil fuels companies who were among the first to discover the effect decided not to tell the public (I wonder why…).I’m waking up every  morning to the news of different Environmental News pages on Facebook and Twitter which all are written on the assumption that human made climate change is happening. That assumption can be backed up by 97% of scientists. The science hasn’t been this certain and widely known as it is now for a large part of many people’s lives, it’s a quite new thing for many. But even grandparents habits can be changed! My recently retired grandmother just told me that she has become a fantastic recycler! So proud!!

The things you need to change to already start making a difference are really easy and small. You don’t need to do much research or invest huge amounts of time in this if you start following these few tips.

5 things that you personally can do to make us less fucked:

1. Cut down on meat consumption. If you really love beef, just save it for birthdays and make it special. Check this out for yummy veggie recipes.

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2. LED LED LED lightbulbs! Never buy any other type of lightbulbs because compared to LED everything else is energy draining rubbish. This is so easy to do.

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3. Cycles, hybrid cars and trains. Cycling above all ♥︎. If you’re rich enough go for a hybrid car and skip the diesel SUV! There are so many cool hybrids! My personal flying vs train rule: as long as it takes less than 12h (a.k.a one night train) I’ll chose trains over flying. Would a similar rule work in your schedule perhaps? Give the idea a though at least.Cars etc

4. Wind and solar electricity! Most energy providers can sell you wind and solar electricity. In Helsinki: Helen, Fortum etc. My energy bill went from ca 12 euro per month to about 13 euro per month. I’m sure you have 1 euro to spare. Give your energy provider a call.

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5. Recycle metal, plastic, glass, paper, cardboard and bio waste. This saves quite much energy and the biowaste becomes biofuels. If you don’t have these bins close and you don’t own a car the glass and metal can mostly be easily transported on a bike or a bus. Try asking your housing company if they could provide recycling bins.

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Sounds pretty simple, right? So give it a go, and try convincing your parents and grandparents to give it a go too! This is a really good starting kit to do your bit to make us less fucked and you can change most of those things already today.

There is of course so many other things you can do, but I think, that if you do these few things you are already doing something about the problem.

Terrorism and climate change

I have talked to several who have not heard that there is going to be a global climate summit in just a couple of weeks. Paris 2015 means terrorism, not a climate agreement to most people. Terrorism is scary because it’s horrible that there are people who want to kill other innocent people, and you can’t know when it will hit. That’s really scary, but at least officials are trying to do something about it. There are the double amount of police patrolling in major cities, the french police catch one of the main figures behind the attacks. They can’t bring people back to life and they can’t prevent every attack, but they are making an effort.

Do you know why climate change terrifies me more than any terrorist attack? Because I feel no one is doing anything about it. It feels like all politicians would be saying “well yeah we know that people will die in terrorist attacks but it’s too expensive to employ more police”. They wouldn’t say that would they? When it’s a question about peoples lives you just don’t say things like that. But why do they say that about Climate change? That it’s too expensive to fix?

Climate change can kill people too. Increased storms, drought, lack of fresh water…This will mostly affect developing countries. Is this why western politicians don’t care enough?

It´s understandable that the Climate march, a demonstration for an agreement at the World Climate Summit, is called off in Paris. Last weeks happenings were too horrible to take a risk of having thousands on the street. We just can´t risk another attack like that. My heart goes out to all the families and closed ones of the victims.

Despite that, I can´t help but being a bit disappointed about the march. Not that I would have been there, but huge events like a demonstration attract media attention. Media on the other hand influences the policy-makers, at least according to my media studies at the University of Helsinki… I think this march would have been great.

There were thousands of Finns on the streets when the government proposed lower wages. Humanity has no future if people just care about their wages but not about the earth that provides us with every damn thing that wage can buy and thing’s we can’t buy like fresh air to breathe. THIS, I think, would be a good reason not to go to work. A major strike around the world to remind politicians that we care what kind of a deal they make in Paris.

I’m really scared. The contrast between what scientist say about the problems and what politicians say about the solution. That’s really scary to me, because I care about all the million humans who will be affected by storms and drought. I care about the Finnish nature, the snowy winters. I care about having fresh air to breathe. I care about not leaving earth in a worse condition than when I got here. And I know many others do too, so join me on the Helsinki version of the Climate March! We need to put pressure on our politicans.

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Which one is worse, plastic or yoghurt?

I couple of days ago I wrote about an oatmeal pudding that I like to eat instead of yoghurt, you can read the post here. The post about the oatmeal-pudding led to an interesting debate on Facebook where the topic wasogImage whether it’s better to buy normal yoghurt packed in a tetra pak (or some other cardboard package) or an oat-pudding in a plastic pot.

So which one is better? This depends on what environmental problem we are trying to affect by our choices. If it’s climate change: the oat-pudding packed in plastic is definitely better. If it’s littering we want to decrease, then the tetra pak might be better. But actually, the tetra pak is made of both cardboard and plastic. Otherwise the yoghurt would just melt the paper. I have done a documentary about plastic, as soon as it is published I’ll let you know. I certainly learned a lot about plastic when I did the documentary, but this post focuses on diary products.

iso_mango_vanilja_200g_smoothieI want to explain why I think we should it less yoghurt, butter, cheese etc. I still eat cheese (I love it <3) so you shouldn’t think, I think dairy products are all bad , but I do try to eat less of them than before. The world is not black and white! Some people participating in the mentioned discussion said that cows (and therefore also yoghurt) are natural and that they don’t harm our environment. That’s true. I absolutely don’t think we should get rid of all cows, not at all! The keeping of cows has been what started saving Finland from several episodes of starvation in the 19th century.

But…here comes the big but. Everything is sustainable only up to a certain level. We are about 5 times more people in Finland, than at the point of time when cows saved us from starvation. I’m sure you all know the basic food chain: a certain amounts of plants are required to produce a lesser amount of meat. As long as the cows only eat grass we don’t really loose as much energy, but in that way the cows don’t grow that fast. Growing food that could be eaten by humans to feed cows is waste of natural resources. Globally, we have destroyed enough forest to make fields out of them. Growing food only for humans (not so much for cows) means less demand of new fields. Also when many animals are put in a small space their excrement become a problem. A big pile of cow-shit needs to be turned in order to get oxygen. Otherwise the decomposing turns into a chemical process producing a lot of ammonium, which results in acidification. In most Finnish farms, I’m sure they do their best to make sure the pile of excrement gets enough oxygen but there are always places that cheat.

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Many people argue that it’s okay to eat cheese but not to eat beef. This something of a paradox. Me being a vegetarian (not eating beef) but eating cheese is a bit paradoxical, I admit it. Especially cheese requires so much milk that it uses almost the same amount of natural resources as beef. And if the argument for eating dairy products but not meat, is that cheese does not require killing, I am sorry to tell you that most male calves (born to make sure cows produce milk) are killed. But yes, it’s true that milk cows get to live longer that beef cows. And that’s why I the end,in my opinion dairy products are a bit more sustainable than beef!

I still eat cheese because it’s one of my favorite foods. I don’t think I need to stop doing it, but I’m also aware that an excessive consumption is not sustainable. But instead of eating cheese on a daily basis, cheese has become a food for special occasions, when I really want to spoil myself. On Monday I was on an international food event and oh my god that Dutch cheese with mustard, I just couldn’t resist!

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Do you want to read even more about the sustainability of cheese? Check this one out!