reducing waste

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.

DIY and share

How you can turn yourself into a fridge magnet (not kidding) and why foodsharing is an awesome idea

Today I’ve got to ideas I want to share with you. The first one has to do with food (or drink) packaging, the second one with food itself. So, let’s get started: Have you ever wondered what to do with old crown caps? Ever since I swapped non-reusable plastic bottles for re-usable glass bottles, I have been collecting crown caps. I just thought they were kind of pretty and I felt like there was still stuff I could do with them. A friend of mine used to collect crown caps from all over the world and used them to create a pretty unique surface for a table. He put a glass platter on his masterpiece and whenever guests came to visit him they admired this unique piece of furniture.

Creep out your friends with DIY fridge magnets made of crown caps

As I haven’t collected enough crown caps for it yet, I have to postpone this project to a later date. Instead I used old crown caps to turn myself into a fridge magnet. Sounds crazy? It is. (By the way, I hope my humor translates into English) But I definitely got a few good laughs from my friends when they saw how I turned a group picture of us into several individual fridge magnets showing only our faces. Now my dear friends Chris and Selina, who also happen to be great bloggers (check out Chriscovery and Fräulein Schön macht schöne Sachen), even started collecting them for me so that I could do more. This is what you need for it:

magnets (from DIY shops), scissors, glue, old crown caps

old crown caps, magnets (from DIY shops), glue, pictures, scissors

It’s ridicoulously easy. Glue the magnet the back of the crown cap, let it dry for 15-20 minutes.

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Then cut out a picture of your choice and glue it to the front of the crown cap. You can also do that first, it doesn’t really matter which step you do first, as long as you let the glue dry for a while.

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Et voilà, you’re done. It makes a great individual present for your friends or parents.

Guess who's this...

Guess who’s this…

Go share economy! How to share food online

Another thing I came across a little while ago was foodsharing. It’s as easy as the DIY fridge magnets: Sign up on foodsharing, upload a little description of what sort of food you offer and where people can pick it up or browse their database for food you can pick up from other people. After that all you have to do is wait for someone to contact you and pick it up (or pick it up yourself). It’s a great idea for everyone that has food left they don’t want to or can’t eat for some reason, for example when you go on holidays and you don’t have a neighbour you can give the food in your fridge to. It happens too many times that we throw out food that is still perfectly fine just because we are lazy and spoiled. If you’ve got something at home you know you will never end up eating (Like the alcohol filled chocolates I always get from certain people), why don’t you give it to someone that would really appreciate it? The foodsharing website I linked is based in Germany. I found a similar thing for the U.S. callled food swap network and I bet there is similar stuff for other countries. If you do find similar projects in your country, I would appreciate it if you comment on this post and send me the link.

Excuse me…

obstacles, dilemmas and choices

Ever since I ditched plastic I was confronted with obstacles. To name a few: plastic-free alternatives that didn’t exist, people offering me free plastic or accidentally buying something with ”hidden” plastic foil. Today I went to the biggest bakery chain in this area where a few days ago I still got my bread in nothing but a brown paper bag. Today I opened the bag and noticed that the girl behind the counter must have used some kind of plastic layered paper to take the bread out of the shelf and put it in my bag. I didn’t even notice her doing that, as I was busy counting my coins. There is another chain that does exactly the same thing (and they even have a big range of so-called ”eco-friendly” products), which is why I stopped buying my bread from them. So instead of using tongs or gloves (which I know are disposable in most cases, but at least they normally get worn for more than just one bread you take out of the shelf), the people behind the counter have to throw out a plastic layerd piece of paper everytime the put something in a bag. For some reason, there seemed to be no need for this, so why now? I decided I wanted to ask next time.

The corpus delicti

The corpus delicti

Despite of the numerous obstacles and dilemmas I am confronted with everyday, most things have become a little easier. As time is going by, I’m getting more inventive (Been using tissues instead of toilet paper now, made my own potato chips last night and tried out a whole bunch of ”cosmetics” out of my fridge…), more observant and more creative with polite excuses.

Yes, yes, yes… I know…

However, one of the biggest obstacles is that despite the ”You will not believe your eyes” clip about is going viral on social networks at the moment, some people repeatedly try to convince me my project is hopeless and ineffective. Their main argument is that there are things I cannot possibly avoid or influence – water coming through plastic pipes, the seats on the tram or the bus being made out of plastic, the veggies I buy from the market being presented in plastic boxes, the bread I buy being transported in plastic containers, my dentist using latex gloves, the medicine I hopefully won’t need during my quest being wrapped in plastic and so on – according to that I’m not only cheating by still using buses, trams etc., but my 40 days without plastic are also a big waste of time.

Someone also raised the matter of glass bottles and jars containing invisible plastic layers inside (Not only in the lids, but also inside the bottle), which is something I could not really find out about online, so I don’t even know if it’s true, and if so, if it actually goes for all jars and bottles. But even if it did, as I said, glass bottles are reusable and can be used lots of times before the actually have to be melted again (I’m referring to the German ”Pfandflasche” here that might lack an equivalent in other countries) and glass jars are at least reusable for personal use at home. Of course and unfortunately all the mentioned examples represent something I can’t do anything about unless I move to the woods, stop writing this blog and start growing my own food (But I bet someone could still come up with something made out of plastic I would or could use if I did so.). But I CAN reduce the amount of plastic waste I produce!

So once again, this blog is about raising awareness for reducing packaging. Plastic pipes don’t get thrown out right after setting them up, tram seats don’t get thrown out after the first ride, plastic boxes transport more than one portion of bread, medicine is something healthy people don’t take everyday and all those who have to take it everyday don’t have other choices. And this is what this blog is about: choice. Sometimes I don’t have one. If I do, I try to make the right one. Everyone has to find out which choice is the right one for them. But this is the right one for me. Sorry this had to be said again – Official end of my rant 🙂

What else?

By the way, to all my German or German speaking friends: There is a documentary about plastic packaging on ZDF at 22:45 tonight. It’s called ”Abgepackt und eingeschweißt”.

Lesson learned: I’m sticking with it!

How to

My list of advice

Sick of full bins?

Sick of full bins?

As I announced in one of my last posts, I put together a list of advice for you on how to reduce the amount of plastic waste you produce. If you’re interested in doing so, maybe this will help you. But please don’t forget: As my experiment started less than two weeks ago, there are still quite a few things I haven’t tried out/found out yet and most of my tips are rather simple so far. I’m still in the process of putting together more advice. Therefore this list will of course be updated continuously. And this is what I learned so far:

  • Put a cotton bag in every handbag, bagpack, on your bike’s luggage rack and (if you have one) in your car. That way you will never or hardly ever have to grab a plastic bag again.
  •  Shop in specialized shops – get fruits and veggies from the market or vegetable shops, bread and cookies from the bakery, cheese and meat from delis etc. That way you can just bring your cotton bags, your own containers etc. and avoid a lot of packaging. The fruit and veg is often tastier, cheaper and fresher.
  •  Avoid individually wrapped things. Instead of buying a box of individually wrapped chocolates for example, go for one bar of chocolate.
  •  And/Or: Buy cardboard tissue boxes instead of a plastic pack with lots of individual plastic packs of tissues.
  •  If you do buy things that come with several layers of packaging, bin them at the supermarket. Most of the big chains provide rubbish bins for excess packaging. That way you let them know you don’t need that much packaging and they are left with the problem of getting rid of it, which hopefully makes them overthink their packaging policy.
  •  Simple, but effective: Drink tap water instead of bottled water. You don’t have to carry loads of water anymore and you save quite a bit of money, too.
  •  Put a ”No junk mail” (”’Keine Werbung”) sticker on your mailbox. This leaves you with a lot less trash and of course also unwanted adds.
  •  Take your own plate or container to the deli counter or take-away.
  •  Why not use unpackaged soap bars instead of liquid soap in plastic bottles?
  •  Wash and re-use jars for homemade dressings, sauces etc. You can also re-use them and turn them into containers to get your favourite dip from the deli counter.
  •  When you order something online, let them know you don’t want the item to be wrapped in plastic. Just add this in a personal message or comment.
  •  Soap, vinegar essence, lemon acid and baking soda is all you really need to clean. This means no plastic packaging, no chemicals and less money you have to pay.

Got any advice, suggestions etc. for me? Then let me know and help me on my quest 🙂