The value of honest work and how to support your locals

Quarantined amidst (justifiable) coronavirus panic, I am one of the few who can still sit in a café with a cup of tea once a week and watch as passersby pick up their food in bulk. 1.5 meters away from the smallest sign of movement, alone at the closed bar of the Little Plant Pantry, I find it impossible to ignore the thought of other small businesses and how they will be affected by the crisis, some of their owners coming in to share their afflictions. Whereas corporations will lose money and stock value, smaller (local) companies might be forced to lay off their employees, and risk going out of business without fast and creative solutions.

“It ain’t much, but it’s honest work.”

My mind rushes to the irreparable impact the coronavirus pandemic will have, especially on all the honest work that is done (you know, work where you don’t manipulate or oversell, work that is collaborative and caring, or about creating something beautiful without a focus on huge profit, with a love for the job itself). As a result of the lockdown, a great number of honest workers will now be struggling, those exact people who dedicate their lives to contributing to greater good, however big or small their service may be. And there it is: however big or small their service.

I wonder why we entertain the idea that honest work isn’t worth much, that the service isn’t always big, and that some jobs are more important than others because of their title or socio-economic standing. It is clear to me now more than ever how much we rely on honest and dependable work: nurses and service industry staff are getting us through this crisis, and so is a hell of a lot of pro bono work.

Devaluation of honest work makes me think of this meme of a farmer who’s undermining his own contribution to society. He seems so convinced that all he slaves away for really isn’t much, but at least it’s honest. A sad disclaimer and an almost insignificant defence, separated by a measly comma.

Honest work and segregation

Part of me understands the disclaimer “It ain’t much”, having been taught to strive for great success, the kind that will leave a lasting impression. Striving for greatness has me necessarily compare to ‘that which is not great’, and it has conditioned me to think that a lot of work is, frankly, not worth much.

None of us are blind to the segregation we create between important and unimportant jobs, and to the value we impart on honest careers we consider impressive, such as being a doctor. Yet the list of honest jobs that many of us rely on enormously but take completely for granted is endless; that’s a heartbreaking shout out to all the small food businesses and artisans, for example.

What surprises me is how little credit and consideration we give to jobs that are both honest and essential to our society (what a feat). As a (pre-corona) part-time cat sitter and full-time volunteer at a packaging-free and zero plastic, minimal waste vegan bulk store, I feel now how satisfying it can be to give back, our shop flooded with those who couldn’t find pasta on the empty shelves of their neighbourhood supermarket. We are considered essential work. I, not hired during the course of my 5-month application spree, am considered essential. Yet, only a handful of people see it that way.

Courtesy doesn’t cut it, but a title will

Only now do I see the irony in the constellation of hierarchies we have made for and of ourselves. The laziest professor in the world would still impress me. The idea of intelligent work impresses me because we have somehow tricked ourselves into thinking that the more we hyper-particularise and climb a fictitious ladder, the more special we are, and the more knowledgeable we are. The more valuable we are. The more we are worth. This is not necessarily true.

I’d walk the aisles of an unflinching classroom, small limbs sheepishly pinned to their sides, should I be so bold as to ask: raise your hands those of you who consider impressive cat-sitting, cooking, farming, making coffee art, owning a small business, creative writing, doing honest work.

Why is what we do “not much”? And can I convince you to think otherwise, to support us now when we need it most?

Subjective suggestions: Amsterdam businesses you can support right now

Little Plant Pantry: For your pastas, grains, beans, rices, nuts, chocolates, soaps, deodorant, moisturiser, vegan milk and cheese, teas, coffees, cookies, granolas. All the basics you’re looking for, all organic, homemade, vegan, natural! Visit in store, or order to collect at

Screaming Beans: A speciality coffee café with a house blend and some of the best, ethically-sourced coffee in Amsterdam, dare I say. If you’ve always wanted to make amazing coffee at home, SB has a sale of 21% on their Brew At Home set right now. And they’re now back with takeaway!

Willem-Pie: Delicious vegan cakes, including the typical Dutch roze koeken. Now delivering through Life of Pie to supply you with STAY OCAKE. Pun-tastic.

Holy Nut: Bite-sized plant-based goodies run by a one-woman show!

Max & Bien, and Rosie & Riffy: Amazing vegan cheeses, enough said.

The Very Good Candle Co.: Cruelty-free, eco-friendly candles and fragrances.

Yerba Restaurant & Bar: Seasonal dishes, with à la carte weekly menus. Order to collect!

SauerCrowd: Naturally fermented plant-based food sourced from organic farms.

Obacht: Maria is an Amsterdam-based freelance graphic designer doing top quality creative work! And, Obacht’s instagram is so aesthetically pleasing.

Eat Mielies Weird Illustration: Fun and weird illustrations on socks, key rings, mugs, you name it (a lot of genitals and pet portraits, folks).

DIYSoaps & Het Zeeplokaal: The names speak for themselves, and their soap is great.

Kind Words: Okay this one is not local, but if you’re a Steam gamer who enjoys niche cute vibes, lo-fi chill music, and writing sweet letters, this is it. It’s a game about writing and receiving nice letters and is particularly uplifting right now. Consider investing in some fun indie games.

Plastic Free Amsterdam: Your guide to a zero plastic, zero waste shopping experience.

Plant Ahead: Handmade sustainable products, including the cutest coconut bowls and candle lights.

Gift cards & vouchers : Can’t visit your favourite place right now? Are they not delivering (yet)? Consider purchasing a gift card or voucher you can use later.

Cat-sitting: You might not be going anywhere now, but you’ll book a vacation one day, and your cats will thank you later for having thought ahead. If you want to support me as a cat sitter for your future travels by way of voucher, send me a message!

Basic Snitch & Quibbsy: Looking for some (creative) writing, graphics, or cool postcards? E-mail me at:

At the very least, consider ethical consumerism, shopping with Etsy and Bol, or directly from the business, and avoiding Amazon. Bezos has enough $$$, and enough to think about too: employment conditions, packaging, carbon emissions.

Amsterdam’s consumerist and eco-unfriendly fast fashion

Whilst Amsterdam can boast an environmentally-friendly profile in many ways, with its trams and metro lines powered by green electricity, and its minimal waste vegan shops like the Little Plant Pantry in West, the city seems to turn a blind eye to the ongoing promotion of fast fashion. In fact, it seems to incite it.

Kalverstraat, Amsterdam // Flo // Basic Snitch

It’s really no secret that Amsterdam is famous for a few things; the ins-and-outs of so-called shady and über-cool coffeeshop joints is the first cultural practice I’m harassed about when I speak of living here. Followed by the Anne Frank House, cheese, canals, pancakes, stroopwafels, oh yeah and the Nine Little (Shopping) Streets.

Declared the 17th most expensive street in the world a decade ago, the Kalverstraat maintains its motto of “Shop. Never stop.” Never.

I’m now fairly well-acquainted with shopping in Amsterdam as I am lucky enough to live nearby and work as a copywriter for a space listings company. Almost all of my writing has been for retail locations on the 9 Straatjes. This freelance job includes researching pretty much every shopping street in Amsterdam, including the Kalverstraat, which is the most expensive street in the Netherlands in terms of rent prices. Declared the 17th most expensive street in the world a decade ago, the Kalverstraat maintains its motto of “Shop. Never stop.” Never.

The thing is, sometimes I like shopping. It has been ritualised as an activity performed with friends, and it symbolises community and gathering. Of course, the practice is also deeply connected to holidays and celebration. When we are so exhausted, when we are so inconceivably underpaid and virtually impossible 40-hour work weeks are a bitter leftover from wartimes where women stayed at home, most of us glorify days off and count the minutes till our shifts end.

As a practice that also bonds parents with children, it comes in the form of your first pair of heels, or your first suit. It brings friends closer together by way of bracelets, lends itself to couples in search of flowers and jewellery, it proposes sales to its clients, and discounts to its employees.

So when I take issue with shopping, it isn’t the social aspect I think of first – though it holds a reprehensible, elitist, and segregational power which is stronger than its capacity to unite – but the capitalist, consumerist, and frankly, unethical and environmentally-harmful idea that fast fashion is the only way to go. The idea that we constantly need more, that the only solution is to never stop buying. And as many of us truly carpe diem for the Outfit Of The Day at the expense of our future, even the wokest of instagrammer vegans are constantly #gifted fast fashion.

Zahra Fatina writes for VOLTA magazine that the fashion industry is amongst the largest culprits of global capitalism and exploitation. She points out that even thrifting and second-hand shopping is only a thorny indirect alternative, with little means of verifying that the clothing has been ethically sourced or produced.

Kalverstraat welcomes more than 40,000 visitors every Saturday. Its sign sends a terrible message: the only trees we care about are the ones that are no longer standing.

More than just an ethical and financial burden, fast fashion is also bad for the environment: clothing is wasted and pollutes landfills, chemical dyes can seep into the ground, and as of right now, the textile industry is the second greatest polluter of local freshwater in the world.

As more and more critiques of fast fashion surface, people are starting to pay attention to important voices. London-based artist Elizabeth Thilling began her anti-fast fashion campaign Project Stopshop in 2017 during her time at university; what she calls a “visual exploration of fast fashion consumption” highlights the absurdity of extreme consumerism. In a similar vein, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg also advocates for a “shop-stop“, or, refusing to participate in the practice of shopping unless you absolutely need to.

And yet, despite all of our united individual efforts, despite thousands marching for action on climate change in The Hague, and Amsterdam standing tall and proud of its environmental efforts, the Kalverstraat welcomes more than 40,000 visitors every Saturday. Its sign sends a terrible message: the only trees we care about are the ones that are no longer standing.

How dare you incite us when we are in the midst of an environmental crisis.

We have long been told now that individual choices won’t make much of a difference. Perhaps thrifting or stopshop campaigns won’t be impactful, but the Kalverstraat sign that Amsterdam chooses to hang and light up is displayed to thousands everyday. That sign does have impact.

I’m not suggesting you shut down your shop, I’m not saying I will never buy a t-shirt again. But don’t have the nerve to incite a society that has already plummeted to the depths of consumerism to take it a step further, to continue, or to start its consumerist journey today. How dare you incite us when we are in the midst of an environmental crisis.