population and footprint

Posted on December 28, 2008 by lowimpactman, translated by Didier.

A few people have made the remark on this blog that overpopulation is an important cause of the increasing pressure on our planet. It is self-explanatory that with an increasing population, we get an increasing usage of available space, resources and energy. When I was born there were about 3 billion people, now close to 7 billion, and predictions are pointing towards stabilizing on approx. 9 to 10 billion souls on Earth. Scientists assume that the planet will be able to deliver enough food supply and resources to sustain the whole lot in a fairly good lifestyle, but not to sustain our Western Wasting Way of life.

Sometimes people make the remark that the environmental pressure would be a lot less if there would be less little Africans, Indians or Chinese born. We have however to account the personal eco-impact of each child born. A baby born in India or Bolivia will at age 60 have produced an estimated 60 tons of CO2 emissions. Who is born in Belgium or The Netherlands will have produced no less than 900 tons of CO2 emissions by the age of 60, which is approximately 15 times. It is for that reason a bit silly to demand from Third World countries to implement birth control and to stimulate the number of babies born here. The best methods to slow down the growth of population in the South are well known an rather cheap:

  • Education (especially for girls)
  • Healthcare (especially related to reducing mortality of little children)
  • Access to affordable and reliable contraception
  • Employment (especially for women)
  • Social services (amongst which family planning and improvement of the economical situation of the poorest groups)
  • Access to drinking water and sanitary facilities.

It are these facilities which has contributed to the strong reduction of child birth in our regions in just a few generations. So the best thing which could happen to reduce the demographic growth and worldwide environmental impact is to redistribute worldwide the available resources, combined with measures which limit population growth both in the North and South. And if you would like to check the actual number of colleague humans walking on this globe, you can use this counter.


posted by Low Impact Man on june 25th 2009, translated by Laban.

Interesting features on the news and in the paper nowadays. Belgium will probably reach the Kyoto norm… Courtesy of the economical crisis. The fact that a number of large industries are operating on half power makes that we’re producing a whole lot less emission than previous years. On the other hand we hear complaints from the disposal companies, because there is less garbage nowadays and less demand for components on bases of recycled materials.
A rather perplexing (insert link here)movie(/insert) concerning this was recently shown on VRT (Belgian national non-commercial television). A big part of our waste-mountain moves to China to be sorted and processed into (less quality) components for new stuff. It’s by the way interesting to see how recycling is done there. The subliminal message of the movie actually is, let us please continue the polluting cycle, because there are a lot of jobs at stake. Both this example as well as the Kyoto norm story shows that we’re currently supporting an non-durable system. The more we pollute, the more jobs we create, and once the economy improves again the exhaust will rise proportionate.
Apparently it is still very hard to think outside the box. It has been discussed in this blog before, but I think that both politicians and managers still think too much in the paradigm of more, bigger and faster. Making a few side activities greener won’t be sufficient. To quote someone from the transition manual: “It will always remain hard to think of durable ways to support our non-durable lifestyle.”(Chris Wyman)

Low Impact Man: 3 months after Year One

Posted by Low Impact Man on august 1st 2009, translated by Liesbeth

Today it’s been 3 months since I finished the official Low Impact Year. Time to have a look at my current footprint! I have been recalculating my footprint on http://www.ecolife.be/canvas, using the data of the past 3 months. After adding it all up, I arrive at a total of 1.93 ha (4.77 acres). That is only a tiny bit more than the 1.9 ha (4.70 acres) at the end of the first year. Let’s look into some details.

As for water, gas and electricity, consumption slightly went down compared to the same quarter last year. In the past 3 months we have been using 2.47 m3 (652.5 gallons) of water (-10%), 27.2 kWh of electricity (-7.5%) and 8.21m3 (289.9 cf) of gas (-40%). As for waste, there is a 40% rise, with 1.4 kg (3.086 lb) a month instead of 1 kg (2.205 lb). The other fractions have remained the same. The food footprint has also slightly gone down. I still don’t eat meat nor fish.

Thanks to the adoption of a few tips from the book ‘Stronger than Sugar’ by Sonja Kimpen (ISBN 9789002231902, in Dutch), my consumption of chocolate and other sweet stuff has also dropped considerably. Last year’s trip to Sweden may have been by boat, yet a bicycle trip has an even lower impact and thus reduced my footprint.

The biggest glutton on the list is definitely mobility. I have only driven 10 km (6.214 miles) by car, and that was while looking for an anti house dust mite mattress for my daughter Marieke. Next to that, I have also been carpooling a few times for LIM-activities in somewhat remote areas. The distance travelled by train has considerably gone up. I travelled about 2,000 km (1243 miles) a month, whereas I only covered 350 km (217.5 miles) in the same period last year. Imagine the monthly average would only be 1,000 km (621.4 miles), then my footprint would have been no more than 1.67 ha (4.127 acres). It is thus very important that after the theatre tour, I find a job close to my home.

Considering this together with the roof insulation that is on its way, it seems possible for me to even beat my own footprint record in the second year of LIM…


I’m holidays for this week. With the children touring by Bike in the so-called ‘Flemish Ardennes’, for cycle fans better know as the venue of the famous Ronde Van Vlaanderen.

You’ll find a new post here on Friday 14th of August.


the shaving debate

Posted by the Low Impac Man on July 28, 2008, translated by Liesbeth

My first love’s father was the one to initiate me into the shaving trade. The system with soap, brush and razor. I have been applying this method for a few decades now at a rate of two shaves a week, and I am quite happy with the result. Every now and then people ask me what is the best method for Low Impact shaving, depilation and the like. I am quite happy with my own method, but not so much with the manufacturers of the blades.

DSCF1560Besides the ridiculous trend to come up with quadruple and even quintuple blades, there is a major standardisation problem in the land of the razors. Some blades slide into a holder, whereas others have a clicking system. Yet all of them are made in such a way that they only fit one particular type of holder. In the past years I have been collecting no less than 11 (eleven!) different kinds of holders. There is a bright future ahead for an enthusiastic member of European Parliament willing to bring order in razor blade chaos. However, Belgian experience with the so-called Ecotax on disposable razor blades shows that this is a pretty sensitive matter.

I don’t know whether electric shaving is better. I suppose a shave doesn’t use too much power as such, but of course the machine has to be produced as well, and one day it will have to be processed as waste. And then there are also the matters of laser hair removal, products like Veet and other chemical methods, aftershave, water use, etc. It is clear that a lot of further research is necessary in order to give a decisive answer about all this. Meanwhile, we’d better let things grow a bit, I suppose. In my opinion, the best solution would be some more tolerance for hair. Let’s just relax and let our hair down a little, right?

on the other side of the ocean

 Posted on juli 15, 2009 by lowimpactman, translated by Didier.

 Above you can find the announcement for the movie of my American colleague from New York. A trailer of the movie about the life of the No Impact Man. Having no impact at all is a notch heavier than reducing to a low impact, but we all know that they always see it BIG in the USA. At first sight there are quite some similarities with my project, and he started it actually before me. Also I was inspired by Colin Beavan with regards to the name of the project.

The funniest part is the fact that he is going through the same things as I am. Unexpected high attention by the media, unexpected challenges and solutions, and in the end the same conclusion that it is possible to have a better life with less impact. The largest difference with my project is probably that he is living the project together with his wife, whom is somewhat less enthusiastic about it.

Maybe I should redo my project again in that manner. Low Impact Man + Impact Lady = ?? Should I call to the TV Channels.  The chance that we will get to see this movie being featured here in our theatres in Belgium is small, but when it ever would occur, I am hereby volunteering to co-organize the Grand Opening. Maybe then everybody could come by bike to the Green Carpet!

coming up: climate wars?

Posted by the Low Impact man on March 23th, 2009, translated by Millie

This week I would have to start with less cheerful news. The past few days I read the book ‘Climate Wars’ by Harald Welzer. Actually the book doesn’t issue the climate change in particular, but concerns more about human and ethnological psychology in crisis situations involving our survival. With lots of historical examples and clear arguments, Welzer makes clear that a stable situations can quickly change because of scarcity or a natural disaster. His prediction is that we are confronted with a future full of conflicts and violence. As for the rich countries, he expects them to use more and more violence to stop the increasing tide of climate fugitives. As to me not an attractive prospect.

klimaatoorlogenHe’s also not optimistic about the opportunities we have to turn the tide on time. The existing technology and new expected techniques are still based on the limited resources and create new problems. Adapting the individual behavior (as my Low Impact initiative where he refers to in a Belgian newspaper) is not at all in proportion to the complexity of the problem. He believes (as I do) that the origin of the problem lays in the economical principle of growth trough use of resources. The actual change should take place on international level, where binding agreements are necessary concerning reduction of our emissions and where rich countries should invest massively to compensate the effects of climate change. But this won’t happen into short term, and the problems will happen into short term. 

 Some pieces of the book I read twice, in search for a slight more positive tone. And eventually he believes that a cultural shift, a radical change in attitude may be our only salvation. Welzer refers to the importance of empowerment where people will look together for a redefinition of a good society. It’s not all very clear, but eventually he takes the same conclusion as in another remarkable book: “Mother Earth has a fever”. Also these authors believe that change is possible if a lot of people will rethink radically about the good life.