A MORE SUSTAINABLE CITY BREAK
It's always a treat to be able to get away for a city break. While time and money don't always allow for slow travel there are some things we can do to make our time on location more environmentally friendly. I recently spent a few days in Amsterdam and used it as an opportunity to test the theory that my desire to live more sustainably can, with a bit of research, come with me wherever I go.
While I did travel by aeroplane from London to Amsterdam Schipol I made an effort to reduce my carbon footprint as much as possible while I was away. For the rest of the trip I got from A to B either by foot, two wheels or public transport.
In all the years I've been travelling I've come to learn just what type of holiday I enjoy. I love being outdoors; people-watching and style-spotting and I can rarely resist the opportunity to pick up a local souvenir. Trying local delicacies is also high up on the agenda. So when it came time to research my trip these were things I was interested in doing. There's no point in googling the best way to stay sustainable on holiday if it means you end up forcing yourself to do things you don't enjoy, for the sake of lessening your environmental impact. Holidays should be fun and sustainability doesn't need to be a chore, provided you're applying its principles to the things that matter to you.
Knowing my weakness for clothes I decided to look up some local designers to see if I could pick up something new for my wardrobe. Buying a handmade item of clothing, direct from a designer, can be pricey. Of course, you're not only paying for their design and craftsmanship but for the labour which went in to bringing the design to life. Fair wages cost a pretty penny, and rightly so. This time around my budget didn't stretch quite far enough to buy designer brand new but that didn't mean I had to go without.
LENA: THE FASHION LIBRARY, Westerstraat 174H, 1015 MP Amsterdam
LENA is a treasure trove of new designs and previously-loved clothing and accessories which can be bought or loaned on a subscription service.
Sisters Angela, Diana and Elisa Jansen, along with their friend Suzanne, launched LENA in 2011 as an alternative to fast fashion.
It's said we use less than 20% of the clothes in our wardrobe so the team at LENA decided to offer a practical solution to staying stylish without contributing to the textile industry's huge waste problems.
Thus, a revolutionary lending library - and an endless wardrobe - was born.
LENA works with designers who share their passion for the environment and the entire collection is curated from a mix of vintage pieces, emerging designers and sustainable brands. They focus on smaller production runs, eco-friendlier fabrics and materials, as well as fairer working conditions for the people who make the clothes.
For Dutch residents, anything in the library can be borrowed, either for a one-time event or for an entire year. All items are freshly laundered prior to lending so each customer can experience the clothes as good as new. Subscriptions range from as little as €10 for a one time hire up to €50 per month for unlimited items. Fall in love with an item you've borrowed and want to make it a permanent part of your collection? Subscribers have the chance to purchase items at up to a 50% discount off the purchase price.
For the rest of us we can still get a slice of style in-store. Almost all the items on loan are available to buy. You can try them on in-store and purchase on the spot. Save time by browsing online before your visit to see what items you like the look of most. I found this helpful when planning a budget for my trip. LENA cultivates a considered approach to shopping and there's no pressure to buy once you're there.
WHILE YOU'RE IN THE AREA...
PRINSEN- & HERENSTRAAT, 1015 DD, Amsterdam
If you're still in the mood for a spot more shopping take a stroll across the bridges, back toward the city centre, until you reach Herenstraat and Prinsenstraat.
A bustling set of streets filled with cosy cafes and relaxed cocktail bars from which you can watch the world go by. The shops are more one-of-a-kind where you can buy anything from stationery to fine wines, homewares and, of course, clothing. I found these shops a welcome reprieve from the chain stores located nearer to the train station.
INSTOCK AMSTERDAM, Czaar Peterstraat 21, Amsterdam
All that shopping worked up an appetite so the next stop on my city tour was INSTOCK. The Amsterdam restaurant is one of three in the local chain and has a relaxed charm. Service isn't all that quick but staff are helpful and friendly and the food is worth the wait.
INSTOCK is a food-rescue restaurant which turns surplus food that would otherwise be thrown out into delicious meals for a good price. The team behind the menu recognise that a large percentage of food grown and reared for eating never makes it to market, whether it's not 'pretty' enough or doesn't quite make the desired weight. With this in mind they work directly with producers to take these items off their hands and reinvent them in their menu.
In addition to rescuing food from the bin at source, they've also created their own product line made from rescued bread and potatoes - named Bammetjes and Pieper beer respectively - as well as a granola that's made from the residual brewers' grains.
I looked the menu up ahead of time and knew there was one dish I had to try: banana tiramisu made with coffee soaked croissants, (rescued from the bakery down the road,) banana mascarpone and a sprinkling of INSTOCK's own granola on top.
Served up with a glass of ice cold kombucha and a splash of sunshine on the terrace outside I can honestly say this was the best meal of my trip.
So far, the restaurant has saved almost 700,000 kilograms of food from landfill. Impressive stuff!
Reservations aren't necessary for daytime dining but if you're travelling in a group, or want to visit the restaurant at night, it's best to book a table in advance. You can do this via the booking form on their website, via email or phone, as preferred. It's worth noting this restaurant only accepts payment by maestro or credit card.
GET OUT OF TOWN
Train travel is affordable and efficient in The Netherlands making it easy to get out of Amsterdam if you fancy exploring the country further. Over the course of a weekend I managed to explore Amsterdam, The Hague, Leiden and Katwijk for under €40.
One of the ways I managed to keep my travel costs down was by cycling, which, anyone who knows me personally will know, is quite a feat. If, like me, you're not a natural born cyclist, Holland is definitely the place to give it a go. With barely a hill in sight you'll merrily glide along on specially designed cycle paths, waved on by courteous pedestrians and road users alike. Just be aware of the road markings - triangles with the tip pointing your way means you have to give way - and you'll be golden. It was such a lovely way to explore the city and even got me thinking of investing in a bicycle of my own once I returned home. Are those pigs I see soaring above these South London skies..?
KNOW YOUR SPENDING POWER
I didn't have much of a plan when I left the city, preferring to follow wherever the wind blew me. More often than not I ended up following the hustle and bustle that led to the markets.
This provided a perfect opportunity to stock up on souvenirs and support small business owners. Markets are a great place to find local producers and makers whose products often have a lower carbon footprint than some of those found in larger stores.
Sellers are usually more than happy to tell you how their products were made or where their wares come from as well sell items without packaging.
Last on my list of things to try was, of course, a local delicacy (or two.) Unfortunately for me the local delicacy is raw herring, apparently best enjoyed aloft over an open mouth and gobbled down from top to tail. Lightly pickled it can be served solo, with onion or in a bread roll with pickles but I confess even that was a stretch too far for me on this occasion. Maybe next time!
I opted for some locally caught fried shrimp. I dropped the ball a bit with the packaging, I did have a container with me but wasn't quick enough to hand it over before my food was served but it's not the end of the world. Trying to live more sustainably isn't about donning sack and ashes and punishing yourself for the things you don't get right first time. Every move we can make toward a less wasteful lifestyle is positive - it can just take a little time to fully adjust.
All in all I'd say The Netherlands made it relatively easy to travel sustainably although I was surprised to only see recycling bins in Amsterdam Centraal train station. With a little advanced planning I was able to visit some great local gems, giving proof to the claim that the movement toward a more eco-friendly, less wasteful way of life is growing.
I'd love to know your tips for a more sustainable way of seeing the world. Feel free to leave them in the comments below or tag me in your posts at laura.weekendwonderlust on Instagram.
Until next week, keep wondering,