Bart De Ridder and Gerlind De Roover, respectively, lay-outer and owner of a clothing store in Belgium are both around the fifty. They share their happy life with the dogs Slimmeke and Pimmeke.They give Goherbie their opinion on some general, but very important themes.

The contents of our plate

Bart: Gerlind is already a vegetarian from childhood. I regularly eat a piece of meat or fish because I like it. Nevertheless, I can also enjoy a vegetarian meal and am fully aware of the ecological footprint of meat.

Gerlind: My parents always kept me five Belgian francs on condition that I ate my meat. I never admit (laughs). I found it so bad for those animals, and if you consider the influence of meat on the environment, I’m so pleased with it.

Bart: You have to think that water and hectares of agricultural land are used to feed all that livestock. So it’s no harm to think about what’s on your plate. But well, I like a piece of meat, which I regularry share with the dogs (laughs).

Gerlind: I mainly buy organic fruits and vegetables. I think that is very important.

Green things – Environment and energy

Gerlind: We sort everything and vegetable waste disappears as a compost in our garden or we give it to the chickens and ducks. If you do not have a garden it will be more difficult. Not every municipality provides for the collection of your organic waste.

Bart: We also take into account the amount of packaging when purchased. I find it amazing when I see the number of plastic and waste that put some people on their doorstep every month. Often it’s the fault of the shops. Some products are often packed per three units or more, while you can also load them separately in your shopping cart. I know that it causes customers to buy more pieces at once, but those wrappers provide extra waste.

Gerlind: In mystore, we always ask customers when they purchase, whether they have a bag. Of course, they will get one if they do not, but it happens so often that they have four bags with them, not being concious and just taking a new one. I do not think it’s bad that we can kindly pay attention to them. For example, I used to do an action where customers were given a discount when they brought their bags back. That usually worked fine. Sometimes I get strange reactions. As if we were too stingy to give them a plastic bag (laughs).

Bart: We also use as many ecological cleaning products as possible. Less driving often does not go well, especially for practical reasons.

Gerlind: When I’m in Antwerp, where many of my suppliers are located, often using city bikes. A fantastic initiative! Then I take the train, take a bicycle out of the racks and go everywhere. You can pay or subscribe at any time like me. For almost € 35 a year, there’s a bike ready for you!

Bart: In terms of energy, I chose solar panels. I found that a heavy investment and borrowed it too, but I’m happy now. After about 7 years your purchase has been returned so it was absolutely worth it. However, I had adjusted the number of panels to our energy consumption. At that time 3000 kWh per year. When we later switched our freezer to a less consuming version, suddenly it came to just 2200 kWh! The downside was that we eventually had a (expensive) solar panel too much. A good advice: Reduce your power consumption to the minimum and then continue to purchase your solar panels.

Among the people

Gerlind: Social contact is not lacking when youown a shop (laughs). I also like being with people and like to please someone.

Bart: We are both very positive and socially established. I am also a member of LETS. That stands for ‘Local Exchange and Trading System’ and is an association, meanwhile, almost worldwide, where people exchange goods and services. The difference is that you appreciate each other with a kind of receipt system. For example, someone will mow your lawn, you appreciate him with a receipt and that person can join another member, I say something, cut his hair.
For example, with a regular friend service, there is a chance that you will get help but you will feel guilty because you do not really have a quality or talent that the other need at that moment. With LETS it circulates between multiple people and there is always someone who will be able to use your help. It is also a system that promotes social cohesion. You get to know a lot of new people and you get a lot of satisfaction.

Gerlind: Ultimately, with a little good will and collegiality you can always find a way to keep society running. Regardless of how the economy is at it. LETS is a wonderful example of that. It shows that there are also opportunities to do something for each other without money.

Bart: In summary, are we really doing well? (Laughs)

Eco tips from Bart and Gerlind

  • Prevent first waste, then sort the rest. That saves time, money and limits the waste.
  • Take your own bag when going for groceries or shopping. Limit the use of plastic.
  • If you’re thinking about investing in solar panels: Reduce your energy bill first. And then purchase your installation. You do not make unnecessary and / or unforeseen (very expensive) costs and always better for the environment.