Zero-waste opportunities in Hamburg, meine Perle…

It always surprises people when it comes up in conversation that I was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany.  With a lack of an accent (one that only five people have ever been able to hear), and a passion for Canada’s wilderness, mixed with an easygoing “We’ll figure it out” attitude, you may even think I am making it up!  However, my German roots run deep, and though I have been living in Canada for over twenty years now, not a year goes by that I do not visit meine Perle.

After visiting England and taking note of their lacking eco-consciousness, I jetted off to Germany to visit my Oma in our hometown that hugs the outskirts of the green harbour city of Hamburg, a place I will forever call my home.

My Oma does not live a zero-waste lifestyle, nor do I expect her to.  She lived through the second world war as a young girl, and grew up in a time in which every single thing and person in a household had a purpose.  Farmers were vital to the community, food was scarce and highly respected, and items or skills were traded or shared.  It was a different time.  Many times she speaks of scarce war times, in which they ate potatoes, potatoes, and more potatoes; no wonder Germans have hundreds of different ways of cooking with potatoes.

The point is – things were not wasted.  Everything was used.  Every piece of every animal was harvested and cooked and eaten or otherwise used.  Every vegetable, no matter how imperfect or shriveled, was peeled, chopped, diced, or eaten straight out of the garden; the scraps were composted and turned back into soil to be used again in the next growing season.

My Oma has seen it all.  Her family was one of the first to have a flushing toilet.  The first to have a telephone.  And the last to have a vehicle.  She has seen technology change the world.  She has seen the rise in our wasteful society.  She lives in a time that has hardly any comparison to her own childhood.  She still composts, gardens, and uses cloth bags.  But she is also nearing 90, and our world of convenience is truly helpful to her in her daily life.  Am I mad she doesn’t avoid plastic?  No.  Am I mad she doesn’t recycle glass?  No.  She does what she can for the environment within her physical limitations and I am proud of her.

The main difference I saw between England and Germany in regards to eco-conscious living was opportunity!  There are markets everywhere; it is a weekly task to get fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, etc, at the market.  Here you can easily incorporate your own containers, bags, and ask the vendors nicely with a pretty smile if you can fill your own containers and for them to take off the tare weight.  Delis and bakeries are plentiful in supermarkets, so it never hurts to ask.  There are many more loose fruit and veg in supermarkets as well, if you missed the last market.  They simply seem more aware, although I did not observe that many people shopping with their own containers aside from cloth bags.

Germany has a great recycling system as well, and offers home pick-up.  They are very particular about sorting garbage into the various categories and recycling bins.

I love reading up on what the ladies from alternulltiv have to say about zero-waste in Hamburg.  Typically when I visit Hamburg I just spend time with my family, but they have really shown me what Hamburg has to offer in terms of zero-waste, because they are doing it!  They have been featured on TV as well, showing us how easily it can be done.  Though I didn’t catch their broadcast, I did watch a few segments on plastic waste featured on NDR, which was the first time I have seen such a focus on this toxic problem.

The beautiful green city has so much to offer, but I typically avoid the city and stay on the outskirts to enjoy the protected forest habitats, which fill your heart with green, and reminds you what beauty really means.


And typically I visit Hagenbeck for the sake of childhood memories…


I did have a wonderful time visiting family, especially spending so much one-on-one time with my Oma.  I simply must share something ridiculous with you now, as you will appreciate just how ridiculous this is from a zero-waste perspective.  We had asked for some smoked salmon at a deli, and not knowing what kind of waste was involved, we were presented with this crap: five slices of smoked salmon, separated by five sheets of plastic, wrapped in a plastic wrap, placed in a plastic container, with an added honey dill sauce in another plastic container.  I nearly fell over.  None of it recyclable, doomed to pollute our planet forever.


And this gem I found in a catalog that made me laugh, but also scratch my head.  This is an advertisement for men’s pajamas.  First of all, I think it is crap that they are encouraging the use of one-time-use to-go cups, but secondly… it doesn’t even make sense that he has one!  He’s in his pajamas, implying that he just got up.  Did he drive to the cafe in his pajamas and pick up a coffee?  Does he really think that that is more efficient than walking into his kitchen around the corner and brewing his own cup?  Oh, man.  Advertising at its finest.


Have you traveled to Hamburg or elsewhere in Germany?  What was your zero-waste experience like?  What options did you have?  Did you come prepared with your zero-waste kit or did you have to get creative?  I’d love to know your thoughts, or even recommendations!

Seemingly unreachable zero-waste goals in England…

About this time eight years ago I packed up my things in the paved city of Calgary, and sped to the airport to fly overseas to my mother in England; escape my woes, and find new direction and purpose in life.  I fell in love with the rolling countryside, the dry humour, and the charming people that I got to meet.  I spent one year in my third global home, but then missed the mountains so much I could not bear to stay another day.

Every year or two I try to make a scheduled stop in England to have a visit; this does not always happen, but I do try!  This year I succeeded and spent one week in England before flying on to Germany.  I called this an “on purpose” stay, as I have “accidentally” stayed in England several times, as Heathrow is not always the kindest airport…

I have been on my zero-waste journey for two years now, so first I will tell you a little bit of my trip, and then I will have to share the shocking amount of waste that I discovered; it left me feeling hopeless for our fellow ZW bloggers who live in England (I thought, how on earth do they cope here?!).

It was unbelievably hot when I arrived in England; sticky, hot, and muggy conditions did not help my migraine that persisted for two days.  My mom and stepdad picked me up from the airport and we headed home.  It was a short week in England, but we did get to visit all of our favourite places…

I was not used to such hot conditions in England, so I thought…hey, it’s 30 degrees, we need to hit up a BEACH TOWN!  That was a very stupid idea, turns out, but it did bring us back to Bournemouth, which is a city I always found buzzingingly beautiful.


My mom knows I like farms, flowers, damn it, I can’t alliterate!  I like stuff that is, like, environmental…so she took me to a lavender farm!  The rows of lavender were the backdrop, and there was a beautiful garden of wild flowers next to a small cafe.  The busy bees’ buzzing (nailed it) filled the air, with the scent of lavender following your every step.

We took a stroll in the New Forest, at which point we named our GPS’ voice Linda and had lots of fun as she guided us through the horse-filled forests.

One of my favourite little towns is Shaftesbury.  We go there for the incredible scones at the Salt Cellar.  And of course to walk the countryside and climb Gold Hill.


Though it is very touristy, I once worked there and saw it daily, I still cannot leave England without having seen Salisbury, with a lunch at Alpino’s, and a stroll through the fields of sheep, geese, with views of the breathtaking cathedral touching the sky.  It is so peaceful here despite the buzz of tourism; one of my all-time favourite spots.


England is filled with beautiful places, lush countrysides, rolling hills, farmland, incredible architecture, and awesome piles of rocks… however, living a zero-waste, and very eco-conscious lifestyle, you also see the ugly side, and that uglyness is trash.

Mom and I were prepping for a family BBQ and headed to a supermarket.  The produce aisle was horrendous; everything was pre-packaged in plastic.  I mean, I get upset here in Canada when I can’t find a cucumber that isn’t wrapped, but in England?!  Nectarines were plastic wrapped in threes, tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, I mean everything.  You could buy some loose potatoes and melons, but everything else = plastic-wrapped.  And a bulk section?  Non-existant!

There was some seafood you could have possibly asked to get in your own container, but the deli was relatively non-existant, and there was no bakery.  I had been in other supermarkets, and they all seem to have the same theme.  When we were visiting our favourite towns, I also saw no sign of organic or whole-food stores, or any specialty shop that you could possibly shop in bulk.

I started thinking… how is it even possible to live zero-waste in England?!  Why are they so far behind in environmental aspects?  Recently they added a 5p charge in plastic bags; fortunately, the usage has decreased, but if all of their products are wrapped in plastic, does that even make much of a difference?

This couldn’t be, I thought, so I took it to our Zero Waste Bloggers Network.  I know there are a lot of U.K. bloggers in our network; surely, they would have the answers!  Here is the feedback I got:

Helen from Spot of Earth has had a long and difficult journey to hunt for zero-waste options.  Parts of the country, she says, are further ahead in environmental movements than others, such as Bristol, and parts of London, but it is difficult to find bulk options, and delis that allow your own containers.  She says the best supermarket to sell loose fruit and veg is Morrison’s, if there is not a market near you.

After Pip from A Refuge for Daffodils chimed in on the difficulty of finding bulk shopping  and having to ask many questions followed by funny looks, Kate from Plastic is Rubbish shared some helpful posts; one on refill stores, and another on shopping plastic free.  Pip recently also shared a post about green shopping in London.

The ladies from alternulltiv also mentioned to our network there was a new zero-waste restaurant in Brighton called Silo.  There were options, but seemed few and far between.

It was shocking to me that such a beautiful country with such incredibly lush views to offer is so far behind in eco-conscious living.  Hopefully this changes, and for now I can be very happy with what Canada has to offer!

What have your experiences been regarding zero-waste in the U.K.?  Where do you live and what do your towns/cities have to offer?  Is it achievable?  Can it be done?!  Oh, I hope so!


Forget Christmas – peach season is the most wonderful time of the year!

Ah, the peach.  The sensitive, juicy, magnificent August fruit that fills me with joy, excitement, and anticipation!  No, seriously!  You don’t get it?  Then I guess you have never had the privilege of digging your face into a freestone peach from the Creston Valley.  Though it brings me sadness that I am not posting about the freestone, but rather the redhaven peach, it’s still friggin’ delicious.

One sunny, alluring August morning, my husband and I set off for the beautiful Creston Valley to pick some peaches and apricots from one of our favourite farms: P + T Chopko.  This is my favourite time of year because the orchards and local fruitstands are in full boom with plenty of perfectly imperfect produce ranging from eggplants and potatoes, to peaches and apricots!  Creston has an abundance of beautiful food, and offer many U-Pick and We-Pick farms.


This was our second time at P + T Chopko; I picked cherries there with a friend last summer.  This was all about the peaches though.  And boy, oh boy, did we get what we came for.  Thirty-two pounds of peaches and apricots, and the orchard was just bursting with ripe fruits for the picking.

And now I had 32 lbs of peaches and apricots… did I think this through?  The answer is YES.  YES, I THOUGHT IT THROUGH.  Because food waste is a thing avoided in our household (and a huge global problem – hello!).  It would honestly break my heart if I had to waste one of these peaches…


Here is what I did with 32 lbs of peaches and apricots so they wouldn’t go to waste:

And of course we stopped at my favourite local fruitstand, Wloka Farms, for some eggplants and garlic, because a) they’re awesome.

Peach season is ongoing until September, so I will probably go back to the same farm and get some more.  Did you get your peach fix yet this summer?  What are your favourite ways to use up those delicious spheres?  Please share here!



Music Festivals & Waste Reduction?

Summer is the time for sun, beaches, hiking, fruit picking, camping, bonfires, gardening …markets …biking…kayaking……swimming…okay, so pretty much insert any fun activity here that you cannot do in the winter!  Summer is of course main season for MUSIC FESTIVALS!  For nearly every musical taste there is a festival to suit your tunage needs.

Personally, I have not been drawn to music festivals until recently, but now that I live a very eco-conscious lifestyle, I knew that there would be obstacles in the way of waste reduction, as I have seen the destruction that a mob of humans can leave behind at any such festival, such as this disgusting mess at Pemberton Music Festival, and this grossness at Glastonbury.  Also, read this post from treehugger referring to music festivals as an “environmental disaster”.

Music festivals are a time to relax, dance, eat good food, be with amazing people, meet new people, and just have a crazy good time.  At what cost are we experiencing this though?  Why do we seem to lose all self control and basic manners while attending music festivals or other large events?  And how are the music festivals themselves promoting a more sustainable way of attending a celebration of music and good vibes?

In my experiences, there are festivals that value sustainability and encourage attendees to act responsibly whilst getting their jam on.  In July, my sister and I attended the Vancouver Island Music Festival in Comox Valley.  My eyes immediately caught a glimpse of bins that were placed all around the grounds, collecting garbage, recycling, and COMPOST (yay).  Another thing I was happy about was that most of the food vendors offered cardboard or paper trays/plates, and compostable cutlery (win!).  I had my own with me anyway, but I would not have been hooped had I not prepared!  There were also plenty of watering stations where you could refill your water bottles.  Oh, and did I mention the tunes?!


In Seattle we had a more wasteful experience, especially within the beer gardens, as there were lots of vendors set up selling beer and cider, each in their own plastic cup; I found no recycling stations there?!  A little disappointing and surprising.

A couple of things you could do to lessen your impact on the festival clean-up:
1. definitely bring a reusable water bottle.  You will need it!  If you can fit it, bring
2. bring your own travel cutlery and wrap it in a napkin; these are light and small enough to fit into your bag.
3.  try and stick to vendors that offer smarter packaging/serving options!  Basically, anything not plastic is preferred.
4.  remember your responsibility, and try not to always choose the most convenient option; you’ve got time, you’re not going anywhere, so relax and think green🙂

A few more tips from Trash is for Tossers.

Recently I saw something that the Wapiti Music Festival is doing in Fernie, B.C., which I think is a BRILLIANT idea.  They have switched to 100% recycled, reusable steel pint cups to use for their beer and cider.  What a promising initiative, and great example for other festivals to show that plastic-free can be done!  Sustainability win!

Next week I will be heading to the Invermere Music Festival, and hopefully there I will also find some happy alternatives to plastics!

In your festival experiences, have you found more wasteful or sustainable venues?  What have been some really promising things you saw, or some very discouraging ones?  Please share your experiences!





And We Are Out of Resources Already: Earth Overshoot Day 2016

At Waste Not Want Not, Marguerite has done a great job to create a different perspective on how much of our resources we are using up, and that this is not a sustainable action. We need to think of future generations, think of the big picture, or there will be nothing left. Had to reblog this!

waste not want not

A slightly hypothetical situation:

Every day I am out and about for the afternoon between lunch and dinner. Since I can barely go 2+ hours without eating, I know to always pack some snacks in my bag. The longer I am out between meals, the more snacks I know I need to bring. Say I have an apple tree that I use to supply my snacks for in between meals, and I am only able to snack on what my apple tree produces. If my apple tree produces 365 apples, then it would be logical to have only one pre-dinner snack every day of the year.

A not-so-logical and gluttonous way to handle my hungry/hangry situation would be to eat more than one apple per day, fully knowing I will run out before the end of the year.

Well, we as inhabitants of Earth have been handling our resources in a…

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sharing is caring: the Sharing Economy

One of my favourite childhood treats was a traditional Hamburg cookie called the Hanseat.  It was a simple, round, delicious cookie with a half pink and half white glaze; you could get them plain or filled with jam.  My sister and I ate these all the time when we were growing up in Germany, so during my trip I bought her one to make her smile.  Homeward bound, I finally arrived in Calgary, stayed with a friend, and drove myself home the next stay, stopping in Invermere at my sister’s work to present her with my gift!  I did not prepare myself for the drive in terms of food, so I was starving.  She had to leave her office for a minute.  I broke off a chunk of cookie and ate it.  She has not forgiven me since.  My response?  Sharing is caring.

Months ago I was driving, listening to CBC Radio and a segment came on about “The Sharing Economy”.  It was wildly interesting to me, as it was completely relevant with my interests in zero-waste and minimalism.  Some of the information was astounding, but also promising.

North Americans have too much stuff (obvi).  The U.S.A leads in having the biggest self-storage industry, and Canada is in close second.  Apartment dwellers tend to have limited space, so renting a self-storage unit may be applicable.  However, our homes nowadays have basements, attics, and we tend to have garages, etc, yet people are still feeling the need for more space for their stuff, so they pay money to rent another garage to store more of their crap, instead of downsizing and re-evaluating (check out Andrea’s post on minimizing and a resourceful read).

One piece of the segment I found particularly interesting is the lifetime use of a power drill.  In the average home, a drill is used an average of 13 minutes in its entire lifetime.  Thirteen minutes!  And there are over 80 million North American homes that house a power drill.  Perspective?

In comes the Sharing Economy.  There are more and more sharing capabilities coming about nowadays, such as car-sharing, home-sharing, tool libraries, public libraries, clothing swaps, garden/land sharing, and, heck, even cheese sharing (as Tammy suggested on Gippsland Unwrapped)!  This definitely fits into the zero-waste and minimalist lifestyle, as you are not having to purchase new items that probably come wrapped in copious amounts of plastic packaging, and will end up taking up space in your home, probably collecting more dust than actually being useful.

Sure, the Sharing Economy will not benefit big companies, such as car rental, self-storage, taxi, etc, but there are always more than one way of doing things; specifically, there are always more sustainable ways of doing things.  Think back to your grandparents’ days.  I just got back from visiting my Oma who remembers her childhood during the second world war.  Everything was shared within the community.  Families cooked extra and used up every piece of an animal or vegetable, and then delivered leftovers to those who had very little.  Items were traded either for other items, or for services (i.e. I will help you harvest your potatoes and you will give me part of the harvest).  Things were not wasted.  They were used.  They were shared.  They were made to last!

With the abundance of THINGS in North America, I think sharing is a great way to not just lower your spending, or lessen our impact on the environment, but also to rediscover what it means to connect with those around you.  We are very far away from that, in my opinion, as we always seem to want things just for ourselves, to be able to call it mine, mine, mine.  Our economy is based on consumption, not sustainability.

The article on CBC is very interesting, and gives lots of resources in the way of apps and organizations that are based on sharing resources.  Give it a read and have a look if there is something useful for you or something that you did not know before.  And next time you need a power drill, maybe just ask your neighbour first!

What sharing resources are available in your town?  What have you experienced in terms of the Sharing Economy?  Please share!

Endlich mal was vernuenftiges im Fernsehen…; German T.V. highlights problems with plastic packaging.

The trip to Germany is nearly over and soon I will have to say my goodbyes to my Oma.  I will elaborate on the trip itself once I am home again, but for today I need to report on something I saw on the television last night; a) because I am missing the interaction with our blogging community, and b) because it was finally a spark of environmental love that has been lacking immensely during my travels!  The topic?  Plastic waste.  Plastic is such a jerk!

The network is NDR, which I think was the same network who reported on our friends from Alternulltiv ZW Hamburg.  In the program they were discussing the heavy use of plastic packaging in big name supermarkets (like Edeka and Aldi), namely of fruits and vegetables (also, Bio products, which in Germany is organic).  Featured produce included bananas pre-wrapped in plastic bags, zucchinis sold in threes placed in a cardboard tray and then wrapped in plastic, shrink-wrapped cucumbers as we know them, and others.  These were first presented to consumers, then the experts (environmental and packaging), and then the network attempted to contact the supermarkets, which responded with some very creative answers to the packaging nonsense.

Consumers were asked on their opinions of wrapped cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, bagged bananas, etc.  The reaction was similar: the consumer would hold the product, shake their heads, and respond with, “This is completely unnecessary.”  Promising, I thought!  People do not appreciate the wrapping.  One man pointed out that when he searches for Bio (organic) products, he also expects them to be environmentally friendly (isn’t that the point, he wondered).  One woman even said she would not purchase it if it came pre-plastic-wrapped.  Good girl!

Next came the experts, who also had similar reactions: the packaging was unnecessary and completely irrelevant.

Then came the interesting part in which the network correspondents contacted the big name supermarkets to explain their abundance and redundant use of plastic packaging.  Several chains were asked the same questions, none returned with the same answer.  If you know anything about Germany, you’ll know that things are done by the book, which made me think these companies are just making stuff up; otherwise, they would likely cite the exact protocol of how they are to sell their produce.  Some said consumers are more likely to purchase packaged products.  Others claimed it kept produce fresher longer.  Others still chimed in with a well-known answer in the ZW world regarding the evil “cross-contamination” (say in Transylvanian accent)!

The experts were again turned to with the supermarkets’ responses.  The conclusions?  They are full of crap.

So, what’s with all the packaging then?  Hm.  It could be that it’s a billion dollar industry and we support it daily.

That same evening I saw yet another program as part of the news that discussed the dangers of microbeads.  The headline: microbeads more dangerous than previously thought.  If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what microbeads are, you should know you probably send them into our water systems daily.  They are in types of toothpastes, facial scrubs and cleansers, body washes, and other body products.  These get washed into our water systems and are so small they cannot be filtered out.  The result?  They float into rivers, lakes, oceans, and our groundwater, and are absorbed by the environment including by fish, which end up back on our dinner plate.  Mmmmm carcinogens!

But why are they more dangerous than previously thought?  With ongoing, extensive research, it was found that microplastics act as a magnet for toxins, carcinogens, and other pollutants in our water systems, which were far less concentrated in the absence of microbeads.  It’s a new type of toxic multivitamin.  As I said, these are absorbed by the environment and are more than likely to be re-ingested by us.  Dang!  We so stoopid.

What can I do, you say?  You can educate yourself on products you use and use your power as a consumer to purchase products that are environmentally friendly.  Translate ingredient lists.  Avoid scrubbing “grains” in makeup and body products.  It is your responsibility as a citizen of Earth.

“But I need to exfoliate!”  Enter the WASHCLOTH!  Dadadadaaaaah!

My point?  It is being talked about.  Time to join the conversation.

Have you watched a related program on TV that gave you some hope in regards to our global waste problems?  Please share!