Roommates on a mission
to save the world
If there’s one place where they know how to make the world greener, it’s at the university. This series follows what’s happening in the field of sustainability.
The big banner on the front of their student house at the Aweg clearly advertised their views. ‘I’ve realised that people need to repeatedly hear why it’s better for the earth to eat a vegan diet’, Oscar Stolk explains. ‘It makes them more aware, which helps them change their behaviour.’
But he and his roommates Sander Kaatee, Jos Spijkerman, and Floris van der Plas didn’t become vegan until they moved into the house together. ‘It’s a process’, he says. ‘We talked about it. We often have dinner together, which made it easier to take that step.’
Sander was the first to make the switch, after he’d been a vegetarian for six months. ‘I do it more out of a desire to be sustainable rather than because of animal welfare’, he says. ‘But once you become a vegan, you realise how weird and unethical we treat animals.’
Not enough land
Generally speaking, animal-based food affects the environment more than plant-based food. The bio-industry is a very inefficient way to produce food; it requires a lot of land to cultivate food for the animals. ‘We can’t produce organic animal products for everyone. There simply isn’t enough land’, says Oscar.
Food is a simple way to make a great impact
They had the banner printed to raise awareness of issues like these, hoping that everyone who sees it takes a second to think about it. ‘There are so many societal issues. Food is a simple way to make a great impact’, says Oscar. However, the city made them take the banner down, since they didn’t have a permit for it.
Perhaps it’s no longer needed; the students have seen that more people are turning to veganism. The selection of vegan products in the supermarket has also increased. ‘The people around me are curious’, says Jos. ‘Hearing that someone they know is vegan makes them more interested, as well.’
Floris was a little apprehensive about moving into a vegan student house. ‘I liked the idea, but I didn’t know what it would be like’, he says. He worried he wouldn’t enjoy the food as much, but it wasn’t all that bad. ‘I started learning more about different flavours and spices. Cooking has become a hobby of mine.’
He started out by deciding to eat vegan for a month, just to see how complicated it really was. ‘But it wasn’t difficult at all and the food was really good. I’ve been a vegan ever since.’
I immediately felt fitter that first month
It can take some getting used to, Floris says, because you’re not quite sure what you can and can’t buy at first. But after a few rounds in his supermarket, he knew what was what. ‘I think everyone would benefit from doing a challenge like this. I immediately felt fitter that first month.’
Jos enjoys his food more because he’s more aware of what he’s eating. ‘But my political views have changed, too’, he says. ‘I’m more aware of where all the food in the world comes from and the societal problems it can create.’
The students say they don’t miss any particular animal products; almost everything can be substituted. ‘I thought I’d miss fried eggs, but I’ve replaced them with spring rolls’, says Jos, laughing. ‘It’s easy to find different foods.’ Oscar does miss how easy it used to be to just walk into a restaurant on holiday and order a meal. ‘That’s when I get bummed out that the rest of the world isn’t vegan yet.’
They know it can be difficult to take that step towards a plant-based diet. ‘You have to change your behaviour. It can be hard, and it takes time’, says Sander. ‘Some people are also worried about how the people around them are going to react.’ They feel it’s important that veganism becomes normalised. ‘We’d like to see more people make the switch, make it more common’, says Oscar.
‘I’ve sometimes told people that they’ll end up being vegan, because I’m convinced everyone will be’, says Sander. ‘We have no choice.’
Oscar shares his vision for the future. ‘I do think we’ll be able to have more people on this earth, but only if we eat a plant-based diet and consume less. It’s the only way towards a functional society.’
How to become vegan
Has this article piqued your interest in veganism? Floris recommends everyone try it for thirty days. ‘Challenge your friends and try to keep it up together. It can be hard to find products in the supermarket at first, but it gets easier.’
Sander’s tip is to not immediately ban all animal products from your house. ‘Start slowly by quitting a specific product at a time. If you don’t know what to make, just google your favourite food and add the word “vegan”. Every dish has an easy vegan alternative.’