Month: February 2014

Bin it where you bought it!

Why we should all leave excess packaging at its origin

Too much to throw out?

In my most recent article on The bird’s new nest (text will be online tonight) I remembered the first time I tried to shop plastic-free. The most frustrating thing was that I often got fooled by eco-friendly looking packaging – for example plastic layers hidden in cardboard boxes. As annoying as this was, I figured out what to buy and what not to buy pretty quickly.

Sometimes it helps if you shake or squeeze the packaging carefully (you can hear the plastic inside), but this method doesn’t always prove to be successful. So even though I’ve got enough experience at buying things without plastic now, it still happens to me from time to time that I accidentally end up with a double-packaged product. So what to do? My advice is to dispose of the excess packaging as close to its origin as possible – in this case the shop where you bought the product. All supermarkets in Germany provide recycling bins (as far as I know this goes for most other European countries, too), so it’s not a difficult thing to do. Of course this doesn’t make the packaging disappear, but you can set a sign that you don’t want and need several layers of it.  On top of that the shop has to face the problem of higher costs for higher amounts of waste.

This is only a very small step, but in my opinion it’s the best thing you can do if you buy an overly packaged product – plus it doesn’t fill up your bins at home. I know that some of you might find it a bit controversial – of course it’s always better not to actually buy anything overly packaged – but I’m a pragmatic person. Small steps are better than nothing!

So what do you think about this? Am I being to pragmatic? Have you ever left excess packaging at the supermarket? Would love to hear what it’s like in your country.

Oriental style quinoa salad

A plastic-free office lunch

I hate pre-packaged salads. They do not only leave me with lots of unnecessary packaging, they also taste boring and often contain preservatives and other things I don’t want in my food. So whenever I work outside of my apartment (I’m a freelancer, so I can often cook lunch at home – a huge advantage) I make myself a little lunch box. One of the easiest things to prepare is quinoa. You just boil it in salt water or stock, let it cool down a bit and mix it with veggies and spices. Here’s my favourite version of it – oriental style quinoa salad with spinach and chickpeas. I usually make it a day in advance and it lasts for about three days.

You need (serving 4)

200 g of quinoa (in a cardboard box from Davert)

450-500 ml of vegetable stock or water

2 TS of olive oil

200 g of fresh spinach

2-3 TS of roasted pine nuts (bought loose)

200 g of (pre-boiled) chickpeas (I bought them in a glass jar at dm)

2 small carrots

3 spring onions

1 clove of garlic

3 TS of fresh parsley

juice of 1 lemon

1 chilli

1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper

1 TS of turmeric

1 TS of paprika

1 TS of curry

a pinch of sea salt

fresh ground pepper

dressing (optional):

150 g of soy or greek yoghurt

1 TS of lemon juice

a pinch of salt

Boil the quinoa for about 20 minutes until the liquid is all soaked up. Let the quinoa cool down, chop the spring onions, the carrots, the parsley and garlic. Roast the pine nuts and wash the spinach. Then mix everything with the rest of the ingredients. Then mix yoghurt with lemon juice and salt for the dressing. Et voilà: The world’s yummiest office lunch!

Quinoa salad

Odd little friends

Why we should all love “Culinary Misfits”

Can you remember the last time you entered a supermarket and bought an oddly shaped potato or a carrot that didn’t look perfectly straight? I can’t. For a long time I did most of my shopping at the supermarket next door – just because I was a little lazy. Since I became more aware of environmental issues, it really bothered me that fruits and vegetables always looked so artificial and perfect. I asked myself: What happens to the odd ones out? What happens to non-perfect-looking fruits and vegetables?

I guess we all know the answer: They get thrown out. No matter how much you standardize and industrialize the process of food production, you will still end up with “products” that don’t match the criteria and end up in the bin. The Berlin-based initiative “CulinARy MiSfiTS” draws attention to this problem. Their conviction: Fruits and veggies do not have to look perfect to be perfectly healthy and delicious. I totally agree.

All shapes are beautiful

All shapes are beautiful

So while “Culinary Misfits” try everything to convince supermarkets to sell “odd produce” and to educate people about food and cooking, we can all do our bit next time we go shopping: Choose a place that sells all shapes fruits and vegetables and choose a product that does not look perfect. I bet you can’t taste the difference!

Btw: You can even do that at your local supermarket: Buy a banana that looks a little bit too ripe, choose an apple with a brown spot, take a potato with a tiny imperfection. What helped me overcome the all to natural feeling of going for the best was the following thought: If I don’t buy it, the chances are it gets thrown out.

Palm oil and plastic…

… and how you can ditch both

I love peanut butter (Who doesn’t?). My consumption has gone up so much that I generally finish a jar in less than a week. Although it’s easy to get peanut butter in glass jars (for example from dm or Rewe in Germany) there is another thing I’ve been worrying about for quite a while – palm oil.

You can find palm oil in hundreds of cosmetics and food products – from quick noodle dishes, ready-meals of all kinds and chocolate spreads to margarine, chips and candy. The problem with palm oil is that tropical rainforests in South East Asia and Africa are being torn up to be turned into plantations for palm oil. The impact on the environment – including deforestation, loss of natural habitats (that affects endangered species like orangutans) and an increase in greenhouse gases – is absolutely shocking and devastating.

So even though some organic producers use palm oil from sustainable sources, it still makes me feel weird to support the palm oil industry. I never really know how sustainable the palm oil actually is. So I decided to do my best to avoid it. A lot of products that contain palm oil are really easy to avoid for me – I never eat ready-meals for example. But I did have to find an alternative for my peanut butter and my favourite peanut sauce. So all you need to make your own jar of peanut butter at home is:

1 empty jar

a food processor (if you don’t have one, soak the peanuts in water overnight and use a blender instead)

about 150-250 g of peanuts depending on how big your jar is (from SuperBioMarkt)

vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)

salt

1 tsp of agave juice (in a glass jar from Allos), alternatively sugar

… and then all you have to do is mix everything together. I can’t tell you how long it takes because it always depends on the food processor and if you prefer your peanut butter to be creamy or chunky. I like it chunky 🙂

For making peanut sauce (goes well with rice paper rolls, rice or noodle dishes) all you have to do is add about a tsp of soy sauce and (optional) a chilli. Et voilà, you got yourself a plastic-free, palm-oil-free alternative. Next time I’m making chocolate spread!

homemade peanut sauce

By the way, if you happen to live in Australia, I just found this website listing products in Australian supermarkets that contain palm oil. It’s a great resource!

ingloriousplastics on the road

Well, actually “on the road” might imply that I am physically travelling, which I’m not. I did, however, broaden my horizon: That means from now on you can find my thoughts on plastic on The bird’s new nest, a green lifestyle magazine.

autorenbutton

My first text on The bird’s new nest went online today. I’m so excited! Here’s the link. So if you can understand German, I would be happy if you checked it out and left a comment. P.S. I’m sure you will find loads of other interesting articles there as well!

Send me your plastic-free recipes

Plastic-free cooking – A blog event by ingloriousplastics

blog event

One year ago I started ingloriousplastics. More than 120 blog posts later I couldn’t be happier about the journey I took. I learnt so much about living without plastic, avoiding packaging and following a greener lifestyle. I also got to know so many inspiring people who share my ideas about the environment and reducing packaging (I just started writing a column The bird’s new nest, an online magazine focussing on a sustainable lifestyle.) And I really hope I could inspire you, too!

As I want to celebrate ingloriousplastics’ birthday in a proper way I had an idea – and I really hope you can help me. How about you send me your plastic-free recipes?

How to participate:

  • Publish a blog post between today and the 1st of March 2014. Your post can be written in any language and your dish can contain any ingredients you like. As I’m a veggie and I would love to try some of your recipes, I would be happy though if you could come up with a vegetarian or vegan recipe. But in the end this is up to you. The only really important thing is that you don’t use ANY plastic packaging for cooking your dish. It would be great if you could include a little description where you bought your ingredients, but this is optional. Here’s an example how you can do that.
  • Link to this announcement.
  • Comment on this announcement.

I will collect all the links and pictures and put together a blog post presenting all your recipes. The blog post will go online on Wednesday the 5th of March 2013. I will also create a Pinterest board and a photo album on my ingloriousplastics Facebook page. Every recipe will also be included in a Twitter post.

So what are you waiting for? I’m so excited to try out your recipes! If you have any questions or you need any advice regarding where to buy certain things etc., please let me know! And feel free to share this. The more the merrier 🙂

Scrub it off!

How to avoid micro-plastic in cosmetics

Who doesn’t love scrubs? They just make your skin feel so nice and soft and so incredibly smell good (Eeehm I’m not talking about the TV show, guys…). But did you also know that they end up in honey, drinking water or fish?

The micro-particles in body scrubs are often made of plastic. So are the so-called “pearls” in certain toothpaste brands or the micro-particles in a number of other cosmetics. Micro-particles are so tiny that purification plants can’t get them out of the water. Often you can hardly see them, but eventually they end up in the sea, in organisms and even on your plate and in your drinking water. At the moment nobody even knows how micro-plastic will affect the environment in the future.

For a long time I wasn’t aware that there wasn’t only plastic on the outside of cosmetics (I mean the packaging), but also inside my shower gel or my foundation. Due to sensitive skin and my determination to reduce packaging I pretty much swapped all my cosmetics for natural alternatives within the past year. But when I checked this list a friend sent me today I couldn’t believe that the mascara I used for a long time actually contained plastic. I’m glad I ditched it.

a delicious eco-friendly alternative: homemade scrub

a delicious eco-friendly alternative: homemade scrub

If you want to do something as well, swap your old cosmetics for more eco-friendly alternatives. Such a small thing to do, such a big effect! This list will help. Otherwise check for polyethylene glycol (PEG) in the list of ingredients. You can even make your own body scrubs. It saves you loads of money and your skin will love the natural ingredients. I put together a big jar of body scrub with a bit of sugar, honey, olive oil and lemon juice. I found a fantastic list of body scrub recipes here. Beautyblunders’ list is just awesome and for all those of you who wanna give it a shot – it includes a lot of vegan scrub options, too.

What do you think about the micro-plastic issue? Did you know about it? And would you swap your cosmetics? Would love to hear from you about this!