This weekend I went home to visit my parents in England, and found myself watching “Kevin McCloud’s Escape to the Wild” on Channel 4 (good old English TV!). This week focused on a family that had moved to Tonga. The family, consisting of Boris and Karyn and their three children moved the South Pacific island in 2007 with five suitcases, where they camped for about a year in the forest whilst they built a log cabin to live in.
.Now they have a beautiful house built entirely from natural resources from the island, along with imported cement. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large living area with a sea view. The family aim to live entirely sustainably: they get electricity and warmth from solar panels and a wind turbine, and running clean water from collecting rain water in big tanks. They even have a bunker at the back of the house for protection from hurricanes and tsunamis.
There is no better way to be inspired to go waste-free than by meeting the people who have done it already. This week I got to interview Susan Roßner, an employee at the University of Konstanz who also runs the website monomeer, an online shop that focuses on selling plastic-free and reduced packaging products. She has lived a plastic-free life herself for years, and with her website is educating and inspiring many others around Germany and beyond to do the same!
Below are the questions I asked about her plastic-free life and business:
This week, I caved. I bought butter and cheese and oranges, all wrapped in plastic. And my excuse was pretty poor: I was tired from work, a little hungover and I just didn’t have the energy to go to farmers’ markets that morning. And yes, I feel terrible, I feel guilty whenever I open my fridge, I feel weak for giving in.
But that doesn’t mean I am giving up. We all have our moments when we fail or when we lose sight of our goals. However these are the critical moments when we have to get back up again and get back on track to what we want to achieve, no matter how far away it seems. The reason that I am writing this post is to show people that everyone falls, everyone fails, everyone has that moment. And that is ok, as long as you don’t give up, otherwise everything else you have already achieved would have been for nothing.
Living waste-free is not just a fad or a trend that will come and go, it is a lifestyle that you have to embrace fully. Of course it is difficult, but I was brought up understanding that if something is too easy to achieve, you are not aiming high enough. I enjoy trying to produce zero waste, not only because I know it is so much healthier for our planet that is already strained under us, but because it is also a challenge. It is a physical challenge to find food and products you can use, and a mental challenge that forces you to come up with innovative solutions to everyday life issues. It gets people talking about important global problems that we need to start tackling right now, and it encourages the massive-scale change that is required to make the planet and people greener and healthier. And it is for these reasons that I don’t give up.
So far, my plastic-free journey has been tough, but really eye-opening. I have managed to cut down a good 70% of my waste, just by changing the way I shop and the products I use. Some might find this amazing or “impossible”, but the changes are easy to make once you work out where to find the products you want in a plastic-free setting.
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.
Christmas- it’s the most wonderful time of the year! I get to see my family, all of the Christmas lights are turned on and the silly decorations are out, and I eat way too much food… We overindulge, in all aspects…
And one of these aspects also includes our rubbish production. Over Christmas holidays, so much waste is produced from wrapping paper, festive food and drink packaging, excessive shopping bags and eating out at Christmas markets, as well as many other things. This is awful and unnecessary, as there are many ways to keep your waste level down over the festive period. Here are a few rules that I shall be following this December, but can also be used all year round!