Germany – My experience of avoiding plastic here

So I have nearly been in Germany for three weeks – I leave this Monday coming so figured now is as good a time as any to reflect on plastic-free living here versus at home in Ockbrook. Briefly I just want to start by commenting on the bin system here versus the U.K.

It feels to me that the German recycling system is miles ahead. They have bins for everything and schemes whereby you are incentivised to take back and recycle goods such as glass bottles for cash. Talking to the family I have got to know the most as it includes the two ministers who supervise me they rarely throw things out into the non recycling bins. In total as a family of 3-4 folks they can cope with a once a month collection. They are just reusing or recycling the rest. Furthermore it is just “natural” to compost things.

Now obviously there are lots of people in the U.K. doing this/ aiming for it (including the Maxwell household) but the difference seems to be that at least here in Herrnhut, Saxony this is just normal – this is taking no extra effort. It is clearly built into the lifestyle.  This is inspiring in so many ways as reducing our general levels of waste ( plastic or otherwise) is ideal and it is great to see a country striding ahead in this area as well as other areas.

Shopping here for the times I have needed to pick up lunch has made a few other things clear. They are so much better at not packaging fruit in plastic. I have really fallen in love (again) with Nectarines after finding them almost impossible to find plastic free in the U.K. Vegetables are not in plastic but these seems to be fairly available in the U.K. too so here it seems pretty even – neither Germany nor the U.K. seem to be ahead of one another as I have also seen both offer plastic wrapped vegetables.

I love Nectarines - there is an amazing Greengrocers that sell these in Herrnhut. So sweet and yummy!
I love Nectarines – there is an amazing Greengrocers that sell these in Herrnhut. So sweet and yummy!

Germany seems better at pasta. This Barilla brand seem readily available (with lots of different pasta shapes) and it has no plastic in it. When I get home I intend to research this brand further to see who actually produces it and see if something similar might be possible in the U.K. As much as I do actually enjoy making my own pasts for things like camping this would be a God-send.

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Germany has Milk as standard in glass in the shops (although it is sometimes UHT style I am given to understand). Similarly apple and orange juice in glass is standard and not hard to come by which has been really enjoyable and a nice change. This is not to say they don’t have plastic options – they do – it is just fresh juice and milk can be bought with little effort in glass down the shops unlike in my experience in the U.K.

One area Germany seems to do worse on is chocolate – not that the U.K. is great. So things like Fairtrade chocolate here in Herrnhut will seem to come in a cardboard but in fact they then have a sneaky plastic covering inside the cardboard where in the U.K. this would usually be foil or non at all.

Overall Germany seems to be limiting its use of plastics more than the U.K. or at least where I have lived and visited. Unlike in the U.K. I wouldn’t fear not having a packed lunch with me whilst travelling in Germany as most of the time I think I could get enough plastic-free bits together to make a packed lunch out – but that maybe the area of Germany I am in. I go onto the Netherlands on Monday and hope to be able to do a similar comparison. I have really enjoyed the fresh fruit here and am hoping that this plastic free easy option will continue in the Netherlands. We shall see.

White Bathrooms and sparkling sinks

Cleaning is never fun (O.K. for most people it is never fun – I know one person who loves it). Trying to do it with the same ease, cleanliness level that produces the same look with non-plastic products is never easy. Here are a few tips I just want to share with you that have really helped me :) 

So I had the wonderful Emily visit a few weeks back and she shared this little one with me. Emily works in a cafe and it has to be said is trying to reduce her plastic intake in little ways. This one though is a gem for those who get mad at marks on their sinks/ silver surfaces like oven tops and is rather pleasingly simple.

Sparkling Sinks Recipie

  1. Get vinegar (we have brown in so I use this) squirt around on surfaces and then wipe clean. You could leave it here but if you like it to stay clean a little longer do this second stage.
  2. Get out your olive oil/sunflower oil Just add a few drops to the surface and massage in. Simple but effective in creating a slight layer of protection at least for a few uses.

I forgot to take a photo – my bad….but try it and share your photo success with me :) 

Making White Bathrooms White

Before our old bathroom suite was not white. I didn’t realise how much of a blessing this was until I moved home since ditching the plastic. Suddenly I was getting frustrated that no matter how much I cleaned the bathroom with diluted vinegar it didn’t look shiny. A quick internet search later and here is the tip I have been using and loving for the last few weeks.

  1. Put onto surface of sink/ bathroom/shower/toilet ect. A squirt of washing up liquid.
  2. Now add in bi-carb of soda.
  3. Now, without adding any water scrub the two together over the area. We use a body scrub to do our scrubbing with.
  4. Now wash clean and dry with toilet roll/ whatever you use.

Ta-da you should now be the proud owner of a white.

(Before and After)

CUCUMBER!!!

So, we have lived here in our new location nearly two months and how time has flown. Since then our plastic free lives have continued with some tricky moments but largely rather successfully:) We have had fish and chips take out from “Our Plaice” in Borrowash which was all wrapped in non-plastic (perfect for those evening when cooking is too much). However, we were still struggling to find a supplier of some more basic supplies.

Until a couple of weeks ago I discovered this amazing shop – in Derby city centre, not far from either the bus station or the market (where you can easily get lots of plastic-free fruit and veg). I was so excited. To get to it you just get dropped off the stop before the end stop at the bus station!

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Not only could we find out supply of toilet paper brand but we also found some of these gems:

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Apologies for this image being upside down – but Degradable Freezer Bags:)
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We already had the brush but now we have found an easy replacement head! Winning – and just in time :) 
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Plastic Free Cucumber!!

This shop has a good range of things a shop in Sheffield Called Beanies has including egg-free mayo (for all my vegan plastic free folks out there). Toothbrushes that are made from bamboo. However it also does plastic free nappies (some of my friends will find this exciting).

The ultimate moment for me was the plastic free cucumber! So good to eat and enjoy – the first this year we have managed to find that is plastic free. Chatting to the person on the till she said this is in often so hopefully this means that cucumber will once again appear in our home:)

Moving has been relatively easy. We have been blessed by a nice area, friends who are nearby and a good community around us. This shop has been just another blessing and one I hope is helpful to others who are living / passing through the area. I believe there is a cafe next door too which is related to this shop:) One to enjoy very soon.

Deodorant Issues

So we have moved to a hard water area and since moving I have had serious issues with my standard bi-carb deodorant. I have used this with a base smell since very early on of living no plastic with very few problems – the occasional too much bi-carb under the pits sting but no big issues.

Four weeks ago we moved and the water changed. My hair likes it – it curls more although it is feeling more and more like rope everyday. My skins hates it. My armpits using a bi-carb based deodorant have become rash central. So I switched.

First of all I switched to a homemade version. Coconut oil, bit of bi-carb (but not pure like before) with some vanilla essence. It smelt amazing and I really wanted it to work. It worked O.K. as a deodorant – not as effective – lasted around 10 hours rather than closer to 24 hours which I had become used with just pure bi-carb. But the rash did not disappear. I was even putting on pure coconut oil at night on my underarms to try and calm the skin (which seemed to be working slightly). However, the rash never went.

 

Next I ordered Hippy Paste in Mint.

mint
Very cool company – check them out using the link below

https://hippypaste.com/products/hippy-paste-natural-deodorant-mint (Source of Image)

I really wanted this to work – I love the ethics of the company and their product has really good reviews. And it definitely hurt less than my homemade version but it still hurt. My rash was still there and each day it stung more throughout the day. I tried days without deodorant and then came back to this deodorant as I really like it.  It works quite well (again the ten hour window) and smells great (subtle mint – who wouldn’t like this, my arms smell as good as minty breathe from toothpaste). But it got to my sister’s graduation. A day I should have been able to enjoy totally and I largely did – my sister looked great (well she looked like she had come out of a Harry Potter Movie) and we as a family are incredibly proud of her and were overwhelmed by the care the lecturers and university showed to each of its sutdents . However, my armpits stung ALL DAY LONG; this was not O.K.

I told my sister and she said I need to take a break from the deodorant. She has kindly left me her Dove deodorant (plastic wrapped) as she knows how much I don’t want to buy plastic…even though this isn’t a long term solution.  Just over a week later I have no rash, no stinging armpits but I am back on plastic-wrapped deodorants which is not what I want. I was giving this up for a year and just over 6 months in my armpits are rebelling.

So I have a quandry… I am wanting to try the hippy paste in a couple of weeks. I am hoping that after the break my armpits may cope better with this hippy paste even with bi-carb but if not I am really running out of ideas. Crystals is the only thing I haven’t tried (and I am unsure of these as there seems to be a lot of mixed information out there). I feel it is the water change that has caused the issue but can’t prove it. The internet research I have tried to do seems very unclear – some people claim bi-carb is too strong to use on armpits, others claim it is not that that causes a rash.

I am hoping other non-plastic folks/ people who make their own deodorants have any idea what to do as I am at a complete loss. Until I moved I was having very little issues with pure bi-carb. Now it feels like even any bi-carb is of no use. Help!

 

Growing Our Own Veg

Our move has given us the gift of many things. One of those is a yard and garden. Previously we lived in a flat which had a strict no plants outside policy (including windowsills) so we really couldn’t grow very much. My indoor rocket lasted a while (which our tortoise Fred really appreciated) but other than cacti we deliberately grew little else.

However, we have inherited a gorgeous cottage garden. I have just started to prune it in parts (this is a pre-pruning photo of it). It is truly beautiful and we intend to enjoy some summer evenings in it eating dinner:)

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Our yard (at the back) has provided us with the space to start growing our own veg, some of which we hope to eventually transfer into our front garden when we find a suitable space. So far we have started to grow potatoes, beetroot, mixed herbs, lavender, cauliflower, beans and lots of onions! Some of these have been gifted to us from our parents as cuttings. Some as whole plants. Some have come from seeds we have bought from a gift card given by a friend. My parents have supplied us with many pots. Currently they are all plastic ( but second or probably third hand). We are using wool to stop slugs (here’s hoping) and are aiming to go as organic as possible with the growing.

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Is gardening plastic free? Currently no, but so far we have avoided buying any plastic. Everything we have got which is plastic is second hand which is good. Everything we have bought so far has been seeds in paper packets. We hope if we have to buy any pots in the future to re-use things we already have or if needs be buy non plastic pots. Currently an old shoe rack is making a great shelf:)

What is exciting is that we are hoping to grow and eat as much of our own vegetables as possible. This would be great for lots of reasons including our carbon footprint but especially because it gives us greater variety in our vegetables. Finding beetroot where we live plastic free would be a challenge, especially in bike-able distance, but currently we may end up with a host of plastic free beetroot (so long as the slugs don’t get to them). We are also looking forward over the next year to learning our harvest times and season. To listen to other gardeners and growers for tips on all the best ways to produce vegetables (fruit is in a year or so’s time).

So any tips folks? Anyone out there doing plastic free vegetable growing what to share any of there learning curves? All are greatly appreciated from an amateur gardener!

The Rice Issue

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So, until recently I bought rice from a lovely man on Sheffield Moor Market. However, since moving I have yet to be able to source rice that is not in plastic with any ease at all. Now it is not that the Maxwell household consumes significant amounts of rice (at least I hope we don’t!) but alongside home-made pasta and chips (usually the sweet potato variety as they are just nicer), mash and potatoes we like our rice. Usually with a good veggie curry. We kinda need rice.

Therefore, as you can imagine, I have been doing some research. And plastic-free rice is out there for us all to find. It just depends how much you want to buy and if you are happy buying rice not in person but over the internet. Ideally, I prefer a person (I like conversation for one) but in reality we are coming to the conclusion that rice may soon be disappearing from our lives as we cannot find it in bike-able distance and currently even car (reasonable distance).

So I figured I cannot be alone in this problem so I thought I would share a few links with you. (Ebay and Amazon are options too but I figured I would leave them off as they are a host of different suppliers!).

Standard Rice

http://www.artimondo.co.uk/carnaroli-rice-in-cloth-bag-1kg.html – This has rice available at 1kg (as well as it available at 500g amounts) and you seem able to ask for it to be delivered without plastic as a request (from the looks of the product customisation box, although I have not as yet tried this). You might be worried about Air miles though as it is not coming from Britain (although no rice is really). But is just a thought. £2.91 per kg pre post and packaging seems not too bad a starting price either. Although with my package and postage it rises up to £5.10 per kg, but it does come in some ways in the most manageable storage size.

http://www.naturallygoodfood.co.uk/Rice/Rice_Brown_Long_Grain_Indica_-_non_organic_25kg – This seems a lot of rice even for us and I do have some concerns about storage. We live in a lovely house but there is not lots of excess room. However, I am seriously considering this for a buy in the future if we are still struggling to find rice. It comes in at just over £1.43 per kg pre post and packaging which is not too bad and maybe useful for families as it seems fairly reasonable financially. With postage for us it comes to £1.70 per kg which is still pretty decent.

http://www.costco.co.uk/view/c/food-wine-household/food-cupboard/pasta-rice-noodles Costco unsurprisingly has a lot of different types of rice available at various reasonable prices ranging from £0.9 per kg to £1.65 of their non-plastic variety. I am less keen on Costco but their prices are tempting and there is one near us but the membership puts me off slightly (you have to take in things like pay slips and pay to join for the access to the supply). 

Paella / Risotto Rice

https://www.ocado.com/webshop/product/Brindisa-Calasparra-Paella-Rice-Cotton-Sack/81351011?sku=81351011&parentContainer=&voucherCode=&dnr=y Ocado do a Paella Rice that comes in a cotton sack (win). Although it is expensive at £3.25 for 500g (so £6.50 for 1kg). But it is good to know it is out there for the future. For now we are just after plain old rice as we tend to make do and use it for Paellas and Risotto. But a good one to know about for if we ever want to make a proper version.

Hopes, Dreams and Aims

I am still hoping to source rice but if I can’t find it by Monday I will be purchasing online. We in the Maxwell Household would love Tilda to look at producing rice in non plastic packaging as in so many other ways they seem so ethical (so if anyone wants to join us in writing to them/ tweeting them please do!). Similarly, Uncle Ben’s (though expensive) gets very close to plastic free packaging so maybe a quick tweet/email/letter to them asking them why they have a small plastic window on an otherwise cardboard box would be fab. Purchasing power can make a change. As we learnt today from the Referendum every person has a voice. Let’s continue to voice our opinion even on small issues like plastic covered food; together we can make a difference.
Does anyone have any other suggestions of places to find it in non plastic either in bulk or in smaller amounts?

Moving House – Plastic Problems

Moving Home

So we have moved home. My calling as a minister in the Moravian Church means that my hubby and I every few years have to move. This is the first of many as right now I am a student in training. Once I have finished my two more years at college I will move once more. Moving is exciting and nerve wracking. It is a great opportunity to embrace change and all its uncertainty. A chance to make and meet new friends. Find new places and discover new things about yourself. We both love change for all of these reasons.

Moving whilst trying to be plastic free is a challenge and I think it is safe to say we have done our best balancing everything alongside the main goal – longevity and plastic reduction.

For the main move we were moved by a removal firm. Everything was wrapped in paper and was transported in cardboard boxes which are due to be picked up in the next few days and be reused by the firm. So no plastic was used/ wasted in the actual move which is great.

However, we had to buy furniture. And this is where it falls down slightly as you can see: 

Plastic

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Fridge Freezer. We had to buy a fridge freezer. And it has plastic on it.We went for a quality and chose Swan because they are British based (reducing air miles) and have a tag line of ‘designed for life’. We hope we are able to make this product last as long as possible, getting it fixed as and when we can – we literally are hoping it might be designed for life. It is plastic though and had a plastic wrapping in its delivery.

No Plastic

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Bench is on the far side ;) 

Table and Bench. We chose a table and bench set (chairs were family gifted) that were made from reclaimed wood. This came in a lorry and came from within Britain again. No plastic packaging as it came straight off the lorry (which is a win).

No Plastic – I think

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Sofas. We got our two small sofas from a fantastic company I cannot recommend highly enough – https://www.sofasofa.co.uk  – Based in Wales – really good quality and were hand delivered. I was not at home to take the delivery so can’t guarantee they weren’t wrapped in plastic in the lorry (but then we think if this was the case it would be re-used) – but we were left with no plastic packaging to deal with.

No Plastic

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The Draws, we also have a wardrobe and dresser and a beautiful mirror. 

Bedroom Furniture – We have inherited a beautiful bedroom furniture set that my great-grandma once owned. Since then  my grandparents have owned it and now us – we love it. And no plastic was wasted in the owning of this – though we did have to take the wardrobe apart and put it back together (thanks mum and dad for the help with this).

No Plastic

Desk We got a small desk from our friends Mim and Eddie in exchange for wine (who doesn’t love deals like that). This again involved no plastic.

Plastic

Spare Room We got for our spare bedroom a set of Argos Shelves and Ikea Bed and the screws came in plastic for each of these (although the larger containers were cardboard).

Other things

Plastic

Internet We had to get the internet and switched our supplier which meant a new box and with the deal a t.v. box. The only plus was that they did supply a recycle your old hub which we plan to do/ send it back to the previous supplier.

Plastic

Garden Based Bits We have been gifted (so not technically bought but in the pursuit of all honesty) Gardening stuff which includes plastic (so watering can, pots). We are incredibly grateful as we are starting to grow our own vegetables as we want to really reduce the amount of miles we are travelling to get plastic free food which is considerably upping due to our now more rural location. However, we foresee the need for more things that have plastic in them when it comes to the garden (we have a lawn, for instance, and are after a cheap mower). This is one challenging area.

Plastic and now back to non plastic

We bought one large plastic milk and then managed to organise a milkman pretty quickly so avoided having to buy another. This is a classic example though of how different you end up thinking when you try and live without plastic. My first thought on arrival was ask about a milkman and we did. On the first day. We had organised one by the end of the first week.

Moving whilst trying to plastic free is a challenge. We still have yet to find rice that is without plastic successfully. We have though already sourced vegetables (locally and a bus ride away). We have not yet found things like lentils or cous cous, yet. It is going to be harder because we no longer live in a city switched onto these issues, however we will keep going.

Overall we have done O.K. just not completely plastic free and arguably big purchases like Fridge Freezers’ push our plastic consumption a lot higher than we would like. However, we aren’t living an incredibly alternate life. If you came to our home it probably looks very much like your own. We are limited to the calling we each have on our lives to live and work alongside people – our lifestyle ask us to live in standard housing  we need to get things like Fridge Freezers. However it isn’t helping in our aim to live 100% plastic free and probably just knocked us down slightly to around 70% successful so far.