Who the hell said Germans were good environmentalists?

Well, after the the latest scandal with manipulating emissions at VW (and possibly other car manufacturers too) it comes as no surprise that we wonderful environmental conscentiuos Germans are not so “green” after all. Instead of decreasing waste per head, we have managed to increase our waste production – I am certainly not proud of that. Is it all empty words when more and more people say they are trying to avoid all these plastic bags, extra food wrappings and take away coffees?

Well, certainly there is more awareness when buying groceries and some people opt for so-called home delivery boxes with organic products from the region where hardly any plastic/wrapping material is used.
Unfortunately, on the other hand the trend towards fancy home deliveries such as hello fresh (which for me is the utmost decadency for people who don’t even want to shop for the groceries any more and get the exact ingredients for one meal) create an enormous waste. Fancy as it sounds it just isn’t at all compatible with wanting to be sustainable.

Also, the increase of online shopping is responsible for the heaps of waste we create on a daily basis – just look at at the amount of parcels people receive week by week where in the past they would have bought products in the shop round the corner. I have to admit that I also order certain things online since I moved to the depths of Bavaria where the amount of specialist traders is rather slim. However, I still try to use online shopping as a last resort when I cannot find any shop within 30 miles…

So, is there are way back to producing less waste with online shopping increasing by the minute? I am doubtful…

Full article in German:

Waste per head increases

Bottlemania in Andalucia

We have just returned from a wonderful holiday in beautiful Andalucia and we came back full of memories of sea, sun and culture and unfortunately a two weeks of buying plastic bottles. I don’t want to even imagine how many of them we had to buy, but with temperatures around 35 – 40 degrees, we as a family of four, have probaly bought/consumed 60 1.5 liter plastic water.

Of course this wasn’t planned initially and I brought along refillable water bottles for all of us, but the tap water was simply undrinkable (too much chlorine and a really yuky after taste), so we had to accumulate a lot of plastic. Apart from one city Conil de la Frontera there was no reycyling facilty anywhere to be found.
Even in restaurants we hardly managed to drink water from glas bottles.

The saddest thing was seeing plastic remains floating in the blue waters of the Atlantic cost and I kept thinking how much plastic is flowing around in our beautiful oceans and thinking that we are playing an (at least during this holiday) active part in this dramatic environmental nightmare!

I wonder why Spain isn’t able to produce drinkable tap water?

The Emperor’s New Clothes – or How Children get under Pressure

Well, New Year’s resolutions aren’t so fresh anymore, but one thing I promised to do better this year is to abstain from buying new clothing in cases where I can avoid it.
Firstly, because I would like to avoid the large number of chemicals in new textiles¬†and secondly to limit my individual responsibility of the exploitation of textile workers in Bangladesh, India and Cambodia…I don’t know if anyone has seen the documentary of Norwegian fashion bloggers about the inhuman conditions of textile workers in Cambodia, but every time I watch something like this I am determined to change my habits…

In any case it’s Carnival here in Bavaria which means buying new kiddie costumes every year for most parents. We have been rather good in recycling or borrowing old ones or making up new versions of costumes and this year we made a “red indian” outfit for my younger daughter from an old men’s t-shirt. We painted and decorated it with pearls and it looks quite fun, but my daughter was so afraid wearing it to kindergarden since all kids wear new outfits. In the end I persuaded here and also encouraged her to be proud to have something home made, but let’s see what she’ll tell me later today when she’ll be back. It’s incredible how conformist children are – they just want to be like everyone else, but I believe we can still teach them to be different and not afraid of it!

P.S.: It reminds me of my older daughter’s comment that she feels ashamed that I don’t pick her up by car after school (we cycle or walk), since all other kids are taken by car…I think I have a long way to go…


Online and Xmas Shopping or What’s in Store?

This is our first Christmas here in the country and I have come to realise how difficult it is to abstain from online shopping when many shops are a long drive away and son’t stock eco-friendly prezzies that I want. In the city I always knew where to go and I really enjoyed the interaction with shopkeepers and walking around in the beautifully illuminated Christmas markets and smaller shops. And I fully believe in personal advice from experts and don’t mind spending a few Euros more for the customer experience and supporting specialised shops.

So now I have ordered have of my presents online due to the lack of availabilty and I even checked online whether I could get my products anywhere within 40 km radius from where I live, but mostly to no avail. At least the other stuff I got second hand or I bought vouchers for the theatre and concert halls, but still I miss shopping offline and interacting with real people. Also here in the country side more and more smaller shops are closing down due to Internet shops. Hopefully by next Winter I will know more shops around here that I can support though…

BTW I completely avoid Amazon…

How do you feel when shopping online?

(Not) Falling into the Christmas Trap

It’s the time of the year when we all get bombarded with emotional Christmas ads, abundantly decorated shops and gift ideas for our dears at every corner. If I didn’t have kids I might try to ignore Christmas or have a very reduced one, but since I always loved it when I was younger and my kids do too now, I have to find a compromise.

So what can I do to curb execessive consumption and stay levelheaded with all the trash that I might accumulate?

First I try to find second-hand items for my kids which is not always easy and more time-consuming than buying new stuff. If that doesn’t work I try to stick to items that are non plastic (hard challenge sometimes since the love all things plastic). For example I have started with vouchers for visits to the kids theatre, family excursions to museums etc.
Also I have always tried (since their birth) to limit the amount of presents to 3-4, so they don’t get overwhelmed with too many parcels.
I use an adventkalender with little sacks that is being reused every year and fill it with little items and refuse to buy the plastic chocolate ones from the store, which my older daugther really wants though.

Then I wrap presents in old wrapper paper or newspaper that we can decorate and paint. For a tree I used to buy one from a homeless project, but here in the new place I am thinking og getting one with roots so I can plant it in the garden afterwards.

Finally I refuse to have meat all the time during Christmas holidays (something quite important in German households) and do mainly vegetarian meals. The meat that I have to buy (because my family forces me to do;-) is organic which is very expensive, but I don’t like the idea of them eating meat from cruel mass slaughter houses.

What do you do for a greener Christmas? Do you have any suggestions for me please?


Slowing Down is a Slow Process

One reason for moving out of the city was an underlying desire to slow down and have less stress, schedules and obligations. After more than 6 months over here, I am not quite convinced that I have been successful in this endeavor. Apart from the fact that getting used to a new environment and community is quite intense and brings about emotional turmoil (especially for the kids fitting into a new group and trying to assimilate), the lack of network over  here means that I rush from a to b a lot of the time.

In certain ways I have slowed down since I can’t go out anywhere spontaneously in the evenings and gave to plan better, but this is the part I miss most about living in the middle of a city! The lack of distractions and events has made me go for more walks in the woods and mountains which is also really relaxing. Even picking greens for the bunnies along the river is a nice task.

Also, what really still bugs me is the fact that I rely on the car, even though I try not to use unless absolutely necessary. The feeling that I can’t live without is certainly annoying. I wish the had car sharing here in the country so we could use a sharing system, but I guess I have to wait about another 100 years for that…

I am curious how well adjusted I might feel in another six months!

Living with Less – Utopian or Not…

Since our move to a bigger space(from city flat to country house) it has become clearer to me that my desire to live with less is growing stronger.
I know that this sounds like a contradiction in terms, but somehow I am more aware of not filling up more space with things that we don’t need.

Having seen some websites where people live with a hundred items etc. or downscaling their living spaces, I feel rather guilty if having more space than before, but my mantra to share this added space with friends has worked out quite well. All the city dweller friends can stay with us over the weekends/holidays so they can benefit from clean air and beautiful surroundings whereas we get great company and fresh ideas and their perspectives from the city. As much as I have started to appreciate my rural settings, this lifeline to urban life is vital for me and also it makes me feel good when I can share my space with people.

Somehow I can’t imagine living in a big house without family and friends to fill the space and I sometimes wonder how older couples in large houses feel when the kids have left…