How to reduce the footprint of your furry friends

As some of you know, I live in the centre of Brussels, where green space is scarcer than the hair on my old math professor’s head in the second year of university. I, therefore, was a bit shocked that a couple of weeks ago, a fence blocked off part of the already limited patch of greenery around the corner. ‘Dog zone’, the plaque on the newly installed enclosure read.

I truly was a tad annoyed at first. But when I saw two four-footers testing out their new playground, I just could not hold back a smile at the sight of their playful fight. Grumpiness gone. Nonetheless, the whole situation had sparked a question. While it is easily measurable how much green space we give away to pets in our cities, it is less obvious how much of humankind’s carbon budget is eaten away by them –literally.

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Why I will not read the new IPCC report

I have been extremely busy lately and therefore running completely behind on my writing schedule. If that was not enough, the IPCC decided to publish another of its so-many-hundreds-of-pages-counting reports on climate change. This time I decided to not even start reading the executive summary. Why, you ask? Because I am getting so damn tired of reports, press conferences, talks, climate summits, and what not the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been dropping on us since the first global Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.

The cover of the IPCC’s latest special report on global warming.

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What happens in the Arctic… does not stay in the Arctic

I just returned from a hiking trip through the North of Spain when sitting down to write this blog post. Besides the beautiful deciduous forests, mountains, and the refined kitchen of the Basque country, I also faced the ever burning sun. Once I crossed the mountains along the coastline and headed onto the plateau of Alava, no trees stood between me and the burning rays. At one particularly hot afternoon, my thoughts drifted off to cooler places. Maybe, I thought in the delirium of the moment, next year I go to the Arctic instead.

My dull train of thoughts came to a sudden stop. Travelling to the Arctic? yelled my inner voice outraged. Do you even realise what kind of impact that would have on such pristine environment?

Arctic ice is melting at an accelerating pace, as a result of warming at a speed twice as high as the global average.

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I tasted the future and I like it

Warning: this post might make you hungry. Don’t start reading until you are near food supplies.

Remember my blog post Meat the future a couple of months back? I had a look at the future of meat and came to the conclusion that we are at a moment in time that ‘heralds the end of the era of cardboard vegetarian burgers’. That was a bold statement, I admit.

The time has come to put my own claims to the test. One of the most famous and revolutionary vegetarian burgers in the world has finally made its way to Europe. Or Belgium to be more precise, to the kitchens of Greenway‘s restaurants. As first on the continent, they are introducing the Beyond Burger on their menu. Comes in a vegan bun, with a good portion of veggies and of course some vegan mayo to top it off. Do you already hear your stomach grumble?

Ready to put the Beyond Burger to the test (photo: Adrian Toth)

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The movement that is turning waste into precious material

Ever since I stepped into a Fabrication Laboratory (FabLab) stuffed with laser cutters and 3D printers in my home university in Leuven, I have been intrigued by the idea that all of us have the possibility to built stuff. Just think about it: for millennia, our economies have been driven by craftsmen and -women that imagined, prototyped, and built their wares from A to Z. With the industrial revolution and the advent of conveyor belts, humankind has largely alienated from making things. The Maker-community, as the people craftings objects are often referred to, turns the tables again by democratising prototyping and production techniques.

I recently stumbled upon a particularly nice project that hit several soft spots of mine. First of all, it works with plastic trash and turns it back into a raw material. Secondly, it develops hardware to easily set up a small production facility with shredders, extrusion and injection moulding machines. Thirdly, all of it is open source. Fourthly, they dream big.

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Permafungi: from coffee to mushrooms

Chances are high you are reading this from a beach chair in France or with your feet dangling off the border of a swimming pool in Italy. Or maybe you are sipping from a coffee on la Rambla in Barcelona? While coffee ground is usually thrown away, some creative souls have found a better purpose: to use it for growing mushrooms.

The people I am talking about are from Permafungi, a small business in my home base Brussels. Of all sustainable projects to be discovered in the Belgian capital, they are definitely one of my favourites. And you will soon see why. For me, it represents all that I like about the city: a bit rebellious, doing things differently, and making the best of what one has. With respect for nature, and with the passion to make a supreme end product. Let’s see how it works.

Bags are filled with a mixture of coffee ground, straw, and mycelium under sterile conditions (photo: Permafungi)

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