Yes, we know: many of the products in the Albert Heijn, Lidl or Jumbo contain unhealthy chemicals, or have a huge impact on the environment in their production process. Once in a while, you might buy an organic product to silence your feelings of guilt. But did you ever think about making your own products? Although it might seem hard to do, Laura Chevalier (25) founded her own workshop business AlternACTivities. She showed the DuurzameStudent-team how easy and fun this is!
About five years ago during her studies, Laura discovered many hidden aspects about the food industry and the products we buy every day. That caused her to start making her own products, such as cleaning products, deodorant and toothpaste. “After I graduated last October, I knew that I didn’t want and wouldn’t be able to work in an office for a job that doesn’t match my vision. I thought of what I could do, and that’s when my boyfriend suggested that I could try to give workshops here, because this kind of approach is still quite unknown in the Netherlands.”
Laura grew up in Paris and studied agricultural sciences in Toulouse, after which she moved to Wageningen. So how much different is France from the Netherlands, if we look at the way sustainability is integrated in our societies? “The Netherlands are more advanced concerning vegetarianism, while in France vegetarians are considered to be extremists who are in life danger. On the other hand, that puts veganism and vegetarianism at the same level in France, while in the Netherlands it is more difficult to be vegan because of the culture to drink milk and eat cheese during lunch.”
She was surprised to see that France (like Italy and Spain) is more advanced with organic and local food. You can, for example, find zero waste products in almost any supermarket there. “The main difference in my opinion is that in France the change comes from citizens and local communities, while here it seems more of a government thing.” She mentions our electric buses, the bins to separate waste (“the French are really bad at this!”) or bikes – although the primary reason to travel by bike is probably not because of the environment. “I am glad to be here and to see what is lacking. I really hope I can make a change in consumer behaviour by bringing the DIY products to the Netherlands, which is a huge trend in France at the moment.”
Laura offered the Duurzame Student writers a workshop to make our own essential oils. We could choose between different types of roll-ons and inhalators, such as ‘confidence’ or ‘anti-insomnia’. We obediently followed her comprehensive instructions: six drops of lavender oil here, thirteen drops of Marjorie oil there… and top it off with coconut oil. In the end, everyone had his/her own unique smell. Laura’s personal favourites are the ‘good mood’ inhalator, and the ‘anti-headache’ roll-on.
Still, she thinks that her cleaning products workshop is the easiest for people to understand and to realise by themselves. “I mean, take a look at any cleaning product at your place, and you’ll read a lot of warnings about how dangerous it can be. Changing your cleaning products is not only important for the environment, but also for the health of your family – and your bank account..!”
Any last tips on how to make small changes in our daily lives? “The basic thing is to question everything you pay money for. Is it worth it? Where does my money go? Where does this product come from? How many people/places did it pass before it ended up in my hands? If I don’t want it anymore, is there a sustainable way to get rid of it? Once you question everything, you start to notice that your money doesn’t go to other citizens, but only to big companies. And is that really what we want?” She realises that it is impossible to change everything you do and to only buy locally produced products, but it is at least important to be aware of what we buy. So maybe next time you’ll think twice and switch to something else?
Curious about Laura’s workshops?
You can go and try one out in Wageningen, but they can also be given in other cities. Plus: Laura has a special offer for DuurzameStudent readers: if you mention you read this interview, you can follow a workshop for only 10 euros!
Next up are:
– 7 April: Bathroom products. Make your own deodorant and toothpaste, and learn how to replace other products in your bathroom.
– 14 April: Essential oils. Learn how to use and mix essential oils to heal small troubles my making your own roll-on and inhalator.
– 28 April: Cleaning products. Learn how to make 1 litre of laundry soap, dish washing soap and multi-purpose spray.