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Is London not beautiful?

For this post I got inspired by my girl friend who discovered a lot of interesting things while having a little walk in our neighbourhood. She likes to go down to the Thames river bank enjoys the views over London, fresh air and the sound of the waves. However, on this occasion she made some shocking pictures of stranded rubbish that was swept onto the little bank we have only 2 minutes next to our home. I was surprised to see so much stuff. I know that the Thames is not the cleanest river of all and you can usually see that the water is not really clean, but the amount of plastic and rubbish in this river is just ridiculous. I think the pictures say it all.

By the way the red basked on the left was not even damaged and we have now in our storage cupboard.

What does a coconut have to do in the Thames?

This little duck seems to have escaped the bathtub and was looking for a bigger adventures.

The most concerning thing for me is that all the plastic rubbish will be swept out onto the sea and over many, many years will make its way into our food chain and will ultimately end up in our bodies. Therefore, we decided to go down to the river bank again on our next day off and collect all this rubbish and put it where it belongs –  in the bin. Anyone joining?

Organic veg to your door step

On the search of finding options that will make it easier to eat healthier and life a better lifestyle, we came across a leaflet through our door a few month ago. It was from Abel & Cole and offered local and organic vegetables and other fresh produce for home delivery – and we gave it a try.

First of all, we compared the prices of organic produce in the supermarket and Abel & Cole and found that it more or less does not make a big difference. The charge for delivery on adds another £0.99 on your overall bill which is really cheap when you compare that Tesco wants you to pay about £5 for each delivery.

Another great things about Abel & Cole is that you can have your seasonal fruit and vegetables put together and chosen for you in a weekly box. The company will put the things together and you can easily add your likes and dislikes. When you go on holiday or still have enough for the next week, just let them know on time and you can skip a week.

We decided for the smallest vegetable box for the moment and are really impressed. Check out this lovely picture of our first vegetable box with some fair trade bananas and organic lemons!

I really love the colours and everything we tried so far, just tastes so much better. I also like that in coming weeks there will be some vegetables in this box that I have not used for cooking before, such as fennel. This ill add some fun in the kitchen and we can explore some new recipes with some lovely produce.

A few more things I like: you can check out the farmers that contribute most of the produce online. They take the box back on your next delivery – perfect recycling or even reusing! Very easy to use website and fantastic customer service. Delivery is usually very early morning and they leave the box at a place where you ask them to. Additional great produce including milk, cheese and lot’s more.

Therefore, if you live in London and want to eat healthy or spice up your cooking, try Abel & Cole. And if you do not live in London, I am sure that there is something similar on offer in your city.

Is recycling really difficult?

Alright, today I need to let some steam go off in this blog post. For the past 3 month we (my girlfriend and I) have a big blue wheely bin outside our house for all our recycling and additionally, a small brown bin for all the food waste. Something I am used to since I am a small child. Apparently, not os for many of my house mates. But this is not the actual problem, the problem seems to be the ignorance and misinformation about recycling. When be first started to separate our glass, plastic and paper from the general waste, most of our flatmates did not join at all and just continued throwing everything into the general waste. When we talked to them about the issue they willingly listened and explained that they do not know how to recycle and what can be recycled. Therefore, we made some pictures and explained it all to them and put some instructions next to the bin. It was working maybe for a few days and then everything went back to normal and all rubbish was landing in the general waste bin. One comment we received was if we really believe that recycling will help the environment at all and that it all is just a big scam or hoax. Really????? I could not believe what I was hearing…!

Recycling by Nour El Refai (nourelrefai)) on 500px.com
Recycling by Nour El Refai

Anyway, we continue to get our hands dirty by getting plastic, paper, cans and other recyclable stuff out of our general waste bin. We will also continue reminding everybody in our house share what proper recycling looks like and why it is important.

Do you have similar stories? Please share them!

We need better food labelling…

This morning, we (my girlfriend and I) were going shopping at the big Tesco Extra supermarket at Canada Water. This was actually the first time that it was really quiet and not many people were around. Shopping between 9am and 10am seems to be the way to go if you like space, take your time and actually do not have to wait at the tills. I will definitely do that more often.

As we were in a great shopping mood and had the space in front of these never ending product shelves, we decided to take a look at what we buy comes from and if we can find products that are produced locally or at least are not imported from some country ont he other side of the world. This is a really great thing to do as you will discover where the product actually comes from and you will be surprised! We are not just trying to reduce our environmental impact with this little change in buying behaviour, but I think it will also help the UK economy and your shopping basket a little bit healthier as you are more likely to buy seasonal products and reduce the carbon footprint enormously. Additionally, I really do believe that the consumer – meaning all of us – has the power to change things for the better.

speed shopping by {foto obscura}  (foto-obscura)) on 500px.com
speed shopping by {foto obscura}

But back to food labelling and the difficult task with some products to find out where they were produced. For example, we were looking for some lentils  and you can imagine that there was an amazing diversity of colours, shapes and labels to buy from. However, all of them did not mention on the packaging the country of origin. We could find out that there were packaged in the UK, but that was all. And this not the only product where you will have difficulties finding the actual source. It looks a bit better in the meat and fruit & vegetable section as most fresh produce will have a label that at least shows the country of origin.

Another thing that makes it difficult for buyers is that most products coming from different markets and are packaged in various countries. Therefore, you will have all sorts of labels claiming different things. If you just think of the organic food labelling. There are a few bodies that can certify in the UK, some more in Europe and everybody has their own label. This is very confusing and you never know what think of if you don’t know the label. This has lead us to do a bit more research on some of the labels, but this again time consuming and if you have a busy lifestyle it is hard to do. However, I do argue if we would all inform ourselves a bit more about food labelling and start changing our buying habits, I am convinced that we can change it for the better.

Please share your thoughts.

PS: If you like to read more about where your food, cloth and other things in your life come from, read: Confessions of an eco sinner by Fred Pearce. A really good read! For more information on the environmental impact of food production, watch: HOME on youtube for free. Pictures you will not forget.

7 ways to change your shopping

The year is already in full progress. New Years resolutions are still on the way, but there is still so much more to be done. While thinking about the year ahead and this blog growing bigger every day, my thoughts came across again on some environmental issues that I would like to share with you. It actually all started with seeing the food waste bin being put into a Tesco plastic bag in my flatshare. This is really something I don’t understand and shows me that people either don’t know how to recycle or they simply don’t care. But maybe it is a bit of both.

This brings me tot he point that I would like to help share my thoughts on these things with other and maybe inspire the one or the other to change at least one habit into something more eco-friendly, sustainable and healthier. As I anyway have to go shopping today, I would like to note down some tips and tricks on how to make shopping or more precise food shopping a little bit more environmental friendly while not loosing out on all the fun – it really depends if food shopping is fun for you, but it really can be!

1. Try to walk, cycle or use public transport when going shopping as it saves a lot of carbon dioxide and at the end it is healthier.

gone shopping by Denis Kudryashov (stereoden)) on 500px.com
gone shopping by Denis Kudryashov

2. As you know you are going shopping, think ahead and take some cotton or other reusable bags with you, so that you can leave the plastic bags in the shop. It makes a big difference to the environment, but it only means a small change for you. By the way, most non-plastic carrier bags are much more comfortable for the hands than it’s plastic counterpart.

bag by Andrew  Kulemin (andrew06)) on 500px.com
bag by Andrew Kulemin

3. When buying fresh food, start buying local produce. Most fresh foods these days have the country of origin on the packaging. This is a great help to reduce the carbon food print of your food and will give you more nutritious food as it probably has not travelled as long as imported produce. Additionally, it helps your local economy and supports farmers in your own country.

4. Buy as many fresh product from the organic range you will find in most supermarkets these days. It is proven that this produce is much healthier and can have more nutrients. Yes, it comes with a bigger price tag, but at the end it is our health were are playing with and is a longer life not much more worth than a few pounds here and there.

Organic Produce by Paula Thomas (gapey)) on 500px.com
Organic Produce by Paula Thomas

5. Buy as many products as possible in environmental packaging. This means less plastic and more paper or glass. Glass is the only packaging material that can be reused and recycled without loosing any of it’s unique characteristics. It also does not leak any unwanted chemicals into your food and drink. Many foods are available in glass, but might be on the lower or high shelves in the supermarket. If you cannot find it just asked a shop assistant for the glass packaged option.

6. Leave unwanted packaging in the shop, so you don’t have to throw it away at home and this will assist in making the shops look at their packaging. Imagine every customer would leave only one item of packaging in the shop when buying something – the cost for the disposal for the shops would rise tremendously and they would find better ways to reduce the waste. The consumer has the power.

Do not litter by Neilstha Firman (Neilstha)) on 500px.com
Do not litter by Neilstha Firman

7. Stop buying bottled water, especially when it is in plastic. Did you know that bottled water is up to 1900% more expensive than tap water? This is a great cost saver! And, by the way it is a proven fact that plastic bottled water leaks chemicals into your water that can harm your body in the long term. Therefore, look for alternatives. If you do not like the taste or odour of your tap water buy a good water filter system that will get you the best and healthiest water you can drink. For more info on bottled water, see my previous post: Are you still drinking plastic bottled water?

Electric blue bottle by Adrian Rayfield (adrian_rayfield)) on 500px.com
Electric blue bottle by Adrian Rayfield

I hope you found this post inspiring and maybe change one little thing on your next shopping tour. I am off to the shop now!

The Christmas tree dilemma

Every year in December, many families around the world have to make a very important decision to make – what kind of christmas tree to buy. Since, I am living together with my girlfriend this decision seems to always start a discussion. The dilemma is if it should be a real Christmas tree or a plastic one and there are many arguments for both sides. here you read about my opinion on having a real Christmas tree in your home.

Candle and decoration on a German Christmas tree

Image via Wikipedia

One of my main arguments for having a real Christmas tree instead of an artificial one is that it gives the room a natural smell. When I was a child there was no option of buying a plastic tree and therefore, I got used to having a real in the house. I think it is much more authentic and reminds me of my childhood and give me that homely feeling.

Additionally, I think that it is a small part of being sustainable as these trees are made into compost after the festive season and are grown again to new trees every year. In recent years, my family in Germany even went that far to keep the trees and plant them int he garden. Some made it and some not, but overall a way of reusing it.

On the other hand, my girlfriend Kriszti prefers to have a plastic tree around for Christmas. It is reusable for many years – that is true. However, it is a nother piece of plastic around in the house and we do have enough of these around. Moreover, I think it does not look as nice as a real Christmas tree and does not remind me of my childhood with all the lovely smells.

English: An artificial Christmas tree.

Image via Wikipedia

Another point the plastic tree side is making that you do not have to clean around the tree every day to clean up all the pine-needles. However, out of my own experience there are some Christmas trees that will stay with all there needles on for about 3 weeks without loosing too many such as the abies nordmanniana.

To make a long story short, I think that there are many arguments to both sides. In my opinion it comes down to personal taste and this can always be argued. Do you have the same discussion in your family? What kind of Christmas tree do you prefer? Let me know!

7 billion people – cheers or fears?

According to the United Nations, 7 billion people are inhabiting the planet earth since 31st October 2011. With this enormous number and the challenges humankind is facing now and in future years to come, it is definitely something to think about – our lives, lifestyles and the impact it has on other people and the planet.

First of all, I was very surprised by the media from around the world that were mostly talking about the possible negative aspects a population of 7 billion people will have on the economy, the planet and the overall wealth of nations. Many reports and articles were talking about the difficulties to produce enough food to feed the earth population. By the way, out of all people on this planet about 1 billion are hungry every day. On the other hand, the most advanced countries on the planet produce enough food to make sure that everybody on this planet could have enough to eat and would not need to starve. The challenge is not that we cannot feed all these people, it is that we do not want feed all of them. It is a problem of distribution and not of production. Something really to think about!

Secondly, it is great to hear from officials of the UN that they are celebrating a seven-billion person society as a success that people live longer are more healthy. However, we still have many diseases that are cured in many western countries, but they are still spreading around the world, mainly in poorer countries. Again a distribution problem and nothing that cannot be resolved, but are we willing to resolve this….

Population growth rate world 2005-2010 UN

Thirdly, some people argue that we are running out of space for all the people to live and many cities around the world having problems with many more people arriving in the urban centres of the world to find a better life. This challenge might even increase when the sea water levels will rise around the globe as most urban centres are on the coasts or on river deltas. Again something that can be resolved by given people the opportunity to survive away from the cities. This might be a major undertaking, but it is possible if only a few more people want it and take actions.

And finally, I think it is a great opportunity for humankind to make things much better. Overall, the earth’s population is becoming younger, and therefore we have more creative minds on this planet to resolve all our challenges we face today and will in future. The only thing we need to do is to make sure that we give people an opportunity to grow, create an income and live in peace with each other. I think that we as humans have faced many challenges while being on this planet and always managed to find a way to resolve them, therefore I trust in our ability to make it happen again and again. Additionally, I do believe if more people would act up on their beliefs of freedom, peace and equality we could make the changes that are necessary to make it possible that every  person can have a life worth looking forward to.

Let me know your thoughts!

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