January 4, 2021
Making New Year’s resolutions is a breeze. “This year, I won’t buy any single-use water bottles.” Done. The hard part - as we all tend to experience towards the end of January – is keeping them. Fortunately, we spoke to Mark Schadenberg, former military nurse, speaker, sleep expert, author of ‘Van slaapwandeling naar droomleven’, ánd somewhat of an expert on trying to live more sustainably. His tip? “I’m always prepared.”

You were a military nurse until 2017. Three years later, we’re calling you for tips about a sustainable lifestyle. How did your interest in sustainability come about?

“During my time in the military, I was deployed to places from Afghanistan to Senegal. In many countries I saw enormous plastic pollution in the streets and the environment. At the same time, I was drinking up to 14 litres of water a day, all from single-use plastic water bottles. And the medical material I worked with usually came in multiple layers of disposable plastic too. When I left the military, I decided to reduce my footprint.”

How does that work in practice?

“I started by studying plant-based food. It has a smaller impact on the environment than animal products, but also reduces my plastic use. Meat is often packed in plastic, but beans and legumes are pretty much always canned. Additionally, I often go to the market for loose, unpackaged products, I bring my own bag and drink from the tap. On the go I bring my own reusable water bottle.

Does it cost a lot of time to make sustainable choices?

“No. I make sure I’m prepared, so I won’t be tempted. Even a good night’s rest is part of that. Sleep and the environment both tend to be ignored. Sleeping well helps me to make better decisions, such as a healthy (plastic-free) breakfast at home, instead of a quick sausage roll and a disposable cup of coffee on the go. And by bringing my own water bottle, I’m not dependent on products packed in plastic when I travel.


Do you feel that you individual actions make a difference?

“Here in Amsterdam I sometimes see more rubbish next to bins, than in them. Occasionally, seeing other people’s behaviour makes me wonder what I’m doing it for. But it’s not that simple and I don’t want to judge. It can be tricky at times. You might choose organic clothing, only to find out it’s not great for the environment. And if you’re living on a low budget with high levels of stress, then you’ve got other things to worry about than the environment. I just keep doing my best, because it matches my values. And hopefully it will inspire other people to consider sustainable choices.”

What practical tips can you give people looking to reduce their plastic consumption in 2021?

“Start by collecting the single-use plastic in your house and think about alternatives. Train yourself, for example by hanging a reusable bag on the door as a reminder. Or keep one in your sports bag. That’s what I did, when I noticed I often went to the supermarket after exercising. But don’t make it too hard, and don’t punish yourself if you don’t always succeed.

If you’re planning on using less disposable plastic at the office, find yourself a plastic buddy. Talk to a colleague and agree to challenge each other if someone slips up, and to exchange experiences. How do you go about this? What’s a good reusable coffee cup in your opinion? You don’t have to do it alone.”

Feeling inspired? Join Mark in becoming a member of the Dopper Wave against single-use plastic water bottles now. We’ll send you your very own personalised pledge to keep you motivated throughout 2021.
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