Taking on a new lifestyle can be scary if you don’t know very much about it, so I thought I would tell you a typical day for me here in Konstanz. Of course this will not represent a lot of people’s lives, but what I hope to do is point out little ideas of where I have cut out plastic or waste that you may otherwise not think about.
In the morning, I wake up and have a quick shower. I use soaps that I can buy without any packaging, normally from organic shops. If I am washing my hair, I use a bar shampoo that comes with no packaging at all (bought from Lush), and if I need to shave, I use a metal razor with a razor blade (normally used for men’s faces, but it works so well!). Normally I try not to do both in one shower to avoid wasting water. I brush my teeth with a bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste tablets that come in cardboard packaging (that I also bought from Lush).
For work I can dress however I want as long as I have covered toes; a luxury of being a scientist! At least a third of my wardrobe consists of hand-me-down clothes from siblings and my other clothes are mostly a couple years old. I have tried to avoid buying new clothes for a while now, and when I do, only if I have something I should get rid of (by donating it to charity). As for make-up, I am currently using well-known brands with plastic packaging. This is the next part of my lifestyle I want to change. I am looking into making my own products as well as organic cosmetics in glass bottles.
For breakfast, I tend to have fruit and hot water. The fruit I always buy from the farmers’ markets in Konstanz, as this always gives me a packaging-free option. I prepare food to last the week on Sunday night, often a big pot of lentils or beans with fresh vegetables that will last me for four meals or so. Cooking in bulk is so much faster cheaper and reduces packaging! This is normally what I take for lunch at work or shall alternate it with dinner. I carry my food in glass mason jars with detachable lids; this allows me to heat food in the microwave at work. I also take my own metal cutlery and a face towel that I use instead of tissues and serviettes.
I walk to work, or take the bus if I’m running late! I’m hoping to get a bicycle soon, but at the moment I have no desire to learn how to drive as I would struggle to deal with my contribution to pollution. I am sure that this view will change if I have a family or need to move my life around a lot more, but for now this setup works well in the pedestrian/bike-friendly city of Konstanz.
At work, it is harder to keep my plastic-free routine. As I work in a laboratory with honeybees, preparations and
materials that we use must be sterile, and so come in their own plastic, sealed containers. There is no way to recycle lab waste (to avoid contamination) so this rubbish can only end up in the bin and eventually landfill. Unfortunately in situations like these, the integrity of the lab cannot be compromised, and that must be respected.
If I’m having hot drinks at work, I bring my own loose leaf tea, mug and tea strainer. I also often buy coffee at the coffee shop in the university. Here they have an excellent system where you pay to rent a mug (only €1.00), and if you do this rather than take a paper cup and plastic lid, they also knock 20 cents off your coffee price!
After work, I like to work out! For daily exercise I tend to go running, and sometimes bouldering. All of these mainly require your own body strength and willpower, so do not need a lot of extra material. I also go to the gym every day, as this saves me buying my own weights and training gear. Needless to say I use a metal water bottle throughout the day.
As for dinner, I tend to eat mushrooms or eggs and vegetables, and am always on the lookout for new recipes! I am not vegetarian, but I rarely cook meat at home, because of the plastic it almost always comes in. During the evening, I write my blog posts, finish off work, play my ukulele, sew ripped clothes and read. If I’m going out, I try not to eat or drink at places that use plastic utensils, and always take my own cutlery and face towel. In bars, I ask for my drinks without a straw or a napkin.
And in the end, I’m off to bed, probably one of my favourite places to be! As you can see there are a lot of little changes I have made to my average lifestyle to make it much greener for the planet and healthier for myself. These haven’t been large or expensive, but have really made a difference as to the rubbish I produce, the food I’m eating and just the general way I think about my life. Perhaps some of these ideas can be incorporated into your life too!