One week without plastic – a retrospect

Wednesday, 10am: I am at the supermarket and I have already spent 10 minutes at the rice aisle trying to find rice that is not packed in plastic.17 different packages or rice and it is still impossible. I am buying tender wheat instead.

Wednesday, 10.15am: At the bakery. “Of course I can pack you the bread in your in the textile bag. Do you want P1160627 (2)to produce less waste? A lot more people should think about that.”

Wednesday, 9pm: I have to admit that I would like to have some chocolate now. But it seems impossible to find some without plastic.

Thursday, 1pm: “You really don’t want to have a bag for the bread roll?” No. “Oh, but if you want to eat it now I can at least pack the other one.” Still no.

Thursday, 4pm: I found chocolate without any plastic! That definitely made my day. 😉

Friday, 6.30pm: Have you ever realized that on some tea bags the tiny papers with the name of the tea are fixed with a metallic clip and sometimes they are just clued to them? You cannot even figure that out if you haven’t opened the new box of tea yet.

Friday, 10pm: Message from Neli – “Do you want to come to my place tomorrow? We could bake plastic free Christmas cookies.”

Saturday, 4pm: The cookies are done and we are happy.DSCF4423

Saturday, 7.43pm: Oh no! I totally forgot that I am going to a party at a friend’s place later and wanted to bring some snacks. 17 more minutes left to go to the closest supermarket. No plastic free snacks. First waste.

Monday, 8.20pm: When we leave the pizza place we get two tiny packages of jelly bears. I was so surprised that I couldn’t say no. The next tiny plastic even if I won’t eat them for at least another two days.

Tuesday, 12.30pm: In front of the mensa a group of students is distributing chocolate Advent calendars. First thought: what a cute idea. Second thought: Why do the calendars which are full of plastic already have to be packed in another plastic bag for every single student who is walking by? I am waiting for a friend for around 5 minutes. 52 people get an advent calendar. What a huge amount of waste.

Wednesday: My week is over but it is not over. I am definitely more aware of the amounts of waste that we produce in our every day life and I will try to keep on minimizing especially the plastic that I use and waste.

Monday: A friend of mine reminds that I wanted to send her the link of our blog. So I hope that soon we will have one more follower.

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Between awareness and privilege.

Every morning, when I eat my homemade bread with homemade jam, I read the newspaper. I read about the decision of the Grand Jury in the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. I read about the attack in a synagogue in Jerusalem. About the idea of depriving Arab as the second official language in Israel/Palestine. About the situation of the refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places – coming to Germany, living in degrading accommodations, having no one who cares about them, struggling with their live story. Reading that refugees started another hunger strike, demanding better living conditions and their right to stay in the country.

Then I start my normal day. Think about university and what I have to prepare. Theoretical studies about “education as a way of democratization”. Maybe think about the weekend what I can do with my friends, where the next party is going on. And then it comes to my thoughts about the zero-waste-challenge: What do I have to prepare for my lunch? Do I need to buy another couple of vegetables? When is the market open? Where else can I get the waste-free stuff I need for lunch or dinner?

Is this reality? Is this really my life?

For me, this is a privilege. The whole zero-waste-challenge. I sometimes feel so bad about being able to do this. It starts every morning by reading the newspaper and realizing that there are happening things in the world, I even can’t imagine. It continues when I hear from friends how they like the idea of the challenge, but then say they couldn’t afford it financially themselves. My parents telling me that they are proud of having a daughter like me, but then they have to admit they can’t do it the same radical way I do it, because they have to work and then it would be too much effort to think about where to get waste-free products.

With this blog-post I don’t want to dissolve the ambivalent feeling I have (what a stupid idea, of course I cannot dissolve this by writing about my feelings). This is just something I have to live with! I know that I can just stop doing the challenge. But would I feel better then? Probably not. I would find another aspect in my life that makes me realize how privileged I am. It seems like this is something I will always have to include into my self-concept.

…there is a “but”: I can use this privilege I have. I can still tell people about the challenge. I can still think about the different options where I can buy waste-free products. I can still read the newspaper and think about the conflict in Israel/Palestine, about the refugees, fleeing from their home countries in the hope to find a better place, about the African-Americans in the USA and their doubts about the US jurisdiction and so much more.

This is maybe what I call the “in-between” of awareness and privilege. I want to raise awareness in the circle I live in but I also know about the privilege I assume to have.

The dream of a plastic-free society

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.

To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

By R. Buckmister Fuller

We obviously need a new model. You may laugh, but I thought about this a lot today, in fact, after I tried to buy some cheese at the local organic store. I had been craving cheese for the last week, and I felt very well equipped when I handed over my little lunch box and asked the man behind the counter to put the cheese straight into my box instead of wrapping it in plastic, since I didn’t want any waste coming with it. He just smiled apologetic and said that he would not be allowed to do this. He could weigh it and hand it over to me with the plastic so I could put it in my box, but that would be all he could do for me. Because of strict regulations concerning the hygiene procedures in places where food is processed or sold, this kind man could not sell me the cheese without plastic, even if he wanted to. I quickly realized that there was no point in arguing. No cheese for me and my plastic-free life this month.

I am being confronted increasingly with situations where neither the consumer demand nor the producer actually want all that (plastic) waste, but rules and regulations make it almost impossible to go shopping (that goes for food as well as for any other product) without surrendering and putting up with the plastic that automatically comes with it.

I have always been a big fan of bottom-up processes, but suddenly I am finding myself wondering, whether this situation needs special treatment. Top-down regulations suddenly seem a lot more attractive; put a price (that represents the ecological damage, if such a think is possible) on the waste we accept every time we buy something (be it willingly or not), give people the possiblity to buy waste-free, and, for god’s sake, make the sustainable lifestyle the more comfortable option for the consumer! I think this would not only save us valuable time and energy, but also a lot of priceless ressources and contain the damage we are causing to the earth every single day. I am not saying that this is the one and only solution. Of course, this process is always going to be bidirectional, and we still need a change of mind just as much. But we also urgently need the system that surrounds the consumer to facilitate and support this change as much as possible – instead of hindering it in the most fastidious ways.

The bloody truth!

A German woman uses about 16800 sanitary napkins and tampons throughout her life. Canadian and American women dispose of 1.3 million tonnes of feminine hygiene products annually… a lot of waste!

Plus, disposable sanitary towels and panty liners are also made mostly from heavily bleached wood pulp, from wood pulp from our ever-decreasing forests. In order to promote the whiter-than-white, sterile image disposable feminine hygiene products are heavily bleached and treated. Elemental chlorine gas has been a common bleaching agent. This is a source of dioxin, a known human carcinogen.

What is the solution?

One possibility are washable cloth menstrual pads, e.g. Lunapads. They are a reusable alternative to disposable sanitary napkins; after use, they are washed, dried and then reused. Cloth menstrual pads are environmentally friendlier and do not contribute to landfill as they are reusable and do not come in or contain plastic packaging. Those made from natural materials can be composted. They are cost-cutting because they can be used for years. Further, they have purported health benefits, because they are less likely to cause rashes, contact dermatitis, as well as helping women afflicted with certain types of vaginitis.

Another option is a menstrual cup, e.g. Ruby Cup. It is a flexible cup worn inside the vagina during menstruation to collect menstrual fluid. Menstrual cups are usually made from medical grade silicone. A menstrual cup is a very affordable alternative to tampons and other disposable menstrual hygiene products. It’s a one-off investment: in general they can be reused for years. A menstrual cup is healthier and safer than tampons for maintaining the vagina’s natural bacterial balance. It collects the menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it, meaning no dryness or leftover fibers. When you buy the menstrual cup, you make a positive environmental impact by completely eliminating the waste of disposable sanitary products. Plus, if you buy a Ruby Cup they give a Ruby Cup to a schoolgirl in need so she can commit to her education without worrying about managing her period for the next 10 years.

Let’s Swak!

The bathroom is my biggest waste problem! Everyday we use many disposable items that after a one or few uses go directly into the trash bin. The toothbrush is one of these items! 450 Million toothbrushes are thrown away annually in the USA. A huge amount of plastic waste!

One alternative for plastic toothbrush is an environmental-friendly toothbrush e.g. made from bamboo. The team of BOGOBRUSH creates 100% biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes. Plus, everytime you buy one they send the same high quality brush to you and to someone in need, so both can enjoy a beautiful toothbrush every morning and every night.

A different approach is SWAK. For millennia many indigenous people have used the stranded wood of the Miswak bush, or “toothbrush tree” (salvadora persica L.) for their daily dental routines. The plant is found mainly in East Africa, the Middle East and India. It is not established as a modern dental care option due to difficulties of use. SWAK created an ergonomically optimized handle out of wood or 100 % biodegradable material. The “toothbrush wood” from the “toothbrush tree” is put into this handle and can now be used easily and efficiently and find its way into western culture.

The cool thing is that the “toothbrush wood” has curative and nurturing substances. So you only need water and you can get rid off the plastic packed toothpaste too!

My experience with it: a bit strange at the beginning but once you get used to it, its great! I dislike tooth deposit afer eating, so for me SWAK is a very practical tool to quickly clean your teeth if you are not at home!

A glass of pasta!

unverpackt_01

The upside-down containers have a lever where the user can decide exactly how much they need

Vegetables are quite easy to find unpacked but when it comes to pasta, rice, nuts etc. things become complicated!

Original Unverpackt, is the solution if you live in Berlin. It is Germany’s first package-free supermarket. Sara Wolf and Miena Glibovski, founder of the concept were disillusioned with the amount of plastic involved in big supermarket shopping. With a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign they raised more than double of the originally set aim of 45000 Euros and were ready to open their shop in September this year.

They sell food largely sourced from local suppliers to reduce transporation costs and pollution. Every step of the supply chain is guided by the team’s “Zero Waste” philosophy.The products are sold in bulk using gravity bins. You, as a customer bring your own bag, or reusable container to take the product away.

Challenger Juli Maier's take aways after shopping at Original Unverpackt, Berlin

Challenger Juli Maier’s take aways after shopping at Original Unverpackt, Berlin

German citizens produce 16million tons of package waste each year to buy products without package is somehow a clean shopping revolution!

But you don’t have to live in Berlin to be part of it. Almost every bigger city has organic shops that offer -besides the packed products- unpacked stuff.

Find out where is your next package free store!

Grandmother’s attic and its findings

IMG_20141103_102402The world is full with stuff. So why to produce new stuff if there is already old one you can reuse?

My mother loves to explore grandmother’s attic. Everytime she is up there she comes down with wonderful treasures. Like this set of cutlery which has been in the family for ages and now it is in my household. Real silver – really beautiful! And everytime I eat, I feel like a noble duchess!

And what do you find in your grandmother’s attic?